Friday, January 18, 2008

All the 'news' that's fit to be... minted?

Newsnight last night seemed to have an odd set of priorities, if you look at some blog comments. I tended to agree.

We all seek the holy grail of a slot on national TV, but what chance do we have if those with deeper pockets seem to have magic ways to not only gain better access, but a pretty blank canvas handed them as well.

There has always been a fine, and difficult to navigate line between 'news' and 'current affairs'.

News is pretty simple. Stuff happens and your report it... who, what, why, where, etc.

Current affairs drifts into other territories, and much muddier waters (to mix my metaphors) once a product or service that is there to be sold (and hence can benefit from being seen and/or talked about) is involved.

While 'the arts' have always had a pretty easy ride (they are still flogging their wares after all), most still seems fair enough in the name of public information and/or entertainment.

But lately it does seem that a lot of PRs have a pretty direct line to the BBC's producers.

Especially those from the, much grubbier, corporate world. I was watching BBC Breakfast's 'business' section this morning, and there was some CEO so desperate to score just one more sale that whatever topic was being discussed he might as well have run a sales video. Even the presenter was embarrassed, if too late to intercede.

I even recall a while ago Sir Michael Rose was allowed on with a rack of garments and given public broadcast time to flog 'em for Xmas like some market trader.

Yes, there is a balance to be struck, and in return for a story about their stuff you do give an opportunity for profile. But really guys, are they slipping bungs out now or what? Or is it just sooo much easier (and in these cost-cutting days cheaper) to let your mates from the lobby firms pitch an idea, set up the meet and provide the script?

Maybe we need a story on payola rearing its profitable, if ethically-questionable head again. And even if no money exchanges hands, who knows what mutual back-scratching deals get done over a nice lunch in SoHo? On 'ex's, natch.

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