Wednesday, May 28, 2008


I watched the bbc world news today on television. I saw the hourly news programme. This is the first time in almost 2 years I’ve seen news on tv. I was surprised and somewhat confused by the experience. The presenters all seemed to be copying that nonchalant, nasal quirky Paxman style, (is he still on tv?), with queer head tilts, stylized hand movements and very wide mouths (for lip readers?). The inflections were as bizarre as ever with odd accents and emphasis. I know this last is deliberate to keep listeners alert, but god it sounds odd when one doesn’t hear it anywhere else. I forgot the reporters always tell you who they are. This is strange, it somehow makes the news personal, yet they are the messenger not the message, does it really matter who they are – the butcher doesn’t introduce himself before he sells you meat.
The format was strange: each report was the same length, no matter what it was about and each was too short to give any real information – it was just a string of glorified headlines – frustrating in their pace, like a laundry list of catastrophes, holidays, politics, as if it was just all fodder for who? Just a soup of pictures and words which didn’t stay on the screen long enough to make any real connection with. It disturbs me that two hours later I can’t remember what I saw, but have the general feeling it was all bad and the world is not a safe place. The earthquake in China, tornados in the US, aide not getting through to Burma, problems with the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, the successful landing in Mars (this was in a way the most disturbing as the presenter introduced the piece by saying “there is life on Mars: well the probe has landed” – did he really call the machine alive?), anti-Islamic feeling in Australia, Memorial Day in the US – each report was about 2 minutes long. I guess it’s not so much confusion as overwhelm. Perhaps it’s because I don’t see news, but I wonder if daily viewing still overwhelms but deadens or desensitizes also just leaving some washed out feeling of what, hopelessness, fear, anger? I can’t think of a single positive emotion brought about by what I saw today. The mars thing, but hell that’s a different planet, the message in the news as a whole was our planet sucks but look here’s another. Yeah my projection. Totally. This is just my observation. I’m not asking for happy clappy news, or less news. I guess I was missing the education part, the whys – why is their anti-Isalmic feeling, why are there racial tensions along the Pakistani border, what’s happening with the weather and what is being done, what part can I play in this, where is my participation? Maybe it’s the passivity with which one receives the news that could be changed to make it a catalyst for change or action, instead of just silage.

There was one quote I can’t shake. It was a woman in the anti-Islamic piece. A small town outside Sydney was protesting against a proposed school for Muslims. (How did this make it to the world news, who decides what to include? Surely there must be all sorts of protests against all sorts of things, organizations and people in the world, why does this warrant coverage?). I was struck in the footage by how white everyone was, not a single shade of colour. The people were angry and coarse. One woman was saying, “keep Oz for the Aussies”.
What did she mean by that? Define Aussie. Couldn’t be she was meaning the Aborigines. Surely anyone born in Australia is an Aussie? The reporter mentioned there were 150 Muslim families in the community, none were interviewed. Obviously in a 2 minute report there’s only time for one viewpoint.
Oddly enough this piece came directly after the piece on Taliban strongholds in Pakistan. I wonder if that’s significant?