Friday 10 July 2015

Choosing an angle

Talking a few screengrabs from the home pages of the BBC, Sky and ITV News websites tonight shows the same story leading each broadcaster's online news coverage.

It also shows, however, some differences in focus, with ITV and Sky taking somewhat different tacks to the BBC.

ITV's coverage is straightforward. Its main story is:
Brits begin flying home from Tunisia after terror alert
British holidaymakers are returning home from Tunisia today after the Foreign Office warned a further terrorist attack 'highly likely'
And its accompanying stories are:  
* Ireland government advises against Tunisia travel
* What to do if you're in or were going to Tunisia

Sky News's coverage leads with a new video showing how the "gunman" Rezgui was "unchallenged by security forces, tourists or hotel staff", and has the following accompanying stories:
*Irish told to leave Tunisia as Britons flee
*Tunisia massacre killer's parents defend son

The BBC, alone among the three broadcasters, doesn't feature the news that the Irish government has joined the British government in telling its citizens to leave Tunisia. 

Its main story is:
Tunisia Britons fly home after alert
The first British tourists fly home from Tunisia. as the UK defends its decision to advise all British nationals to leave the country
The use of "as the UK defends its decision", uniquely among the three broadcasters, raises a question mark over the British government's decision.

The BBC's accompanying articles are...
* Militants killed in Tunisia mountains
* What next for Tunisia holidaymakers?
* "We would have stayed in Tunisia"
* Tunisia Britons 'confused' and 'angry' 
...two for which also put dissatisfaction with the UK government's decision at the forefront of BBC online readers' minds.

There usually seems to be an angle when it comes to BBC reporting. Do you agree that there's one here?


  1. Not sure, or if it is an angle, it's one shared by a lot of right wing commentators (the Spectator was featuring the case for continuing to engage with Tunisia despite the terrorist risk).

    1. I have to say I'm not quite sure myself. I felt tentative about posting this, but the differences between the three broadcasters struck me as worth noting.

      You're probably thinking of Justin Marozzi's impassioned plea in the Spectator on behalf of Tunisia, its people and its tourist industry - a piece I found quite persuasive (though not persuasive enough to book a holiday there on the strength of it).

      Tunisia did vote out an Islamist government. The majority of its voting public now appears, therefore, to prefer secularism to Islamism. Some 14% of Tunisia's GDP is derived from tourism. Tunisia will be absolutely hammered by a mass pull-out of European tourists. And that's not good for those in Tunisia who aren't our enemies.

  2. I wouldn't book a holiday either!

    This is a highly complex policy area. I guess my instinct is to say "let government advise and let people decide" but it isn't that simple. For one thing, in these litigious times, as soon as government advise negatively, tourist companies become liable from a duty of care angle. And then in terms of state policy, we don't want our people wandering into areas where they will be taken hostage and used as tools to subvert our country's interests.

    Maybe a more proactive policy is required?

    Firstly, I would say if Tunisia is losing £400 million from our advice on tourism, let's launch a compensation scheme for Tunisia, out of the international development aid budget (which is in the billions). Won't cost us anything (we simply divert from other parts of the budget) but will show our commitment to fostering their fragile democracy.

    Then why not try and identify safe zones for British tourists - with advice from our security people and with us reviewing Tunisian security plans. That way, we could reintroduce tourists gradually.

    1. A few days ago on FaceBook, BBC Today decided to do what the BBC does best and flipped to 'heads we win; tails you lose' mud-slinging piece framed as a question after they dug up a 'former' (always a source of a juicy dig) ambassador to raise concerns: 'Why are we focussing on Tunisia?'.

      Beyond the poor souls murdered not yet being buried, it was as tacky as it was daft.

      I decided to offer an answer:

      "One suspects it is more to do with official media-'why-was-there-no...?' backside-covering panic and corporate litigationphobia more than anything. As with every other incident, from the serious and tragic like this to the petty and daft like most other content-void fillers the media (inc. the BBC) obsess over. It's a no-lose for hacks and sharks as they get fed with the event and then chewing on any response no matter what the response. I remain intrigued what the time-limitation metric is for such things before it is all forgotten about and the all clear given, like a guy in N. Africa or Paris or Denmark can't pick up an AK-47 and go postal any time they like, in a month, 6 or a decade. And even a guard every 100m will be useless if a suicide squad decide to mount an assault. Has Tony Hall still got his £1k a day protection detail because of a nasty tweet, BTW? Welcome to the delusional world of governments and state media when it comes to the reality of terrorism and what the establishment tries to spin around it all.


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