BBC Thames pageant coverage: that stinking feeling
June 5th 2012 00:56
For years I watched broadcasts of marathons. In fact I enjoyed coverage of all endurance events - human spirit is rarely so noble or so visible as when doing battle with the body that hosts it.
In the early years of marathon coverage on television, the networks used to televise the event, and put a couple of knowledgeable commentators in a booth somewhere to talk about what we were looking at.
Then they started to get more sophisticated. We got crowd interviews, helicopter vision which showed the runners as ants, lengthy graphical interludes showing us course routes and elevation, and documentary-length sideshows giving detailed histories of the city hosting the run.
All I wanted to do was watch the marathon.
This came back to me when I got online for a news catch-up this morning and saw, to my surprise, that British media had been scathing of the mighty British Broadcasting Corporation's coverage of the Thames boat pageant.
The float-by of more than 1,000 vessels, part of the celebrations marking 60 years in office for Queen Elizabeth II, was "trashed" (to use The Telegraph's word) generally.
The reason? Instead of covering the pageant, they kept switching to assorted talking heads on the assumption that viewers "would far prefer to watch C-list celebs spouting nonsense" (The Telegraph again).
Parliamentarian Rob Wilson dismissed the BBC's effort as "low-grade, celebrity-driven drivel".
Stephen Fry tweeted that it was "inane" and "mind-numbingly tedious".
The Daily Mail's Jan Moir gave the BBC a lesson in quality commentary. "Turn the royal trumpets to the parp and piffle setting," she wrote. "Muffle the funeral drums. For on a molten grey stretch of the Thames, with a global television audience of millions watching, something died yesterday. It was the BBC's reputation as a peerless television broadcaster of royal events. It just could not survive under an onslaught of inanity, idiocy and full cream sycophancy."
But the best comment was back at The Telegraph where Judith Woods wrote, "The point is that sometimes, and most incontrovertibly on this occasion, the story is the story and everything else is just an immensely irritating distraction."
Yes! If the people arranging coverage of marathons take note, I may go back to watching them.
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