I love the BBC. I read the News web site and listen to Radio 4 every day. Occasionally I watch the Television news. I am really proud that our collectively-owned broadcaster is as good as it is. But I think that – freed from the need to make money – the BBC News service should be even better. For example:
- Speculation is not news. If a report is going to be released on a certain date, it is not ‘news’ until after it has been published. Having people discuss what reports might contain when they are eventually published is not news. It is ‘News-ertainment’.
- News is numbers. When reporting about Fukushima, I want to know the numbers. I want to know what the radiation levels are in rational units – in this case dose rate in micro-seiverts per hour, or the number of becquerels of activity in the soil. These numbers are the news. Some people won’t understand the numbers, but others will. Terms like ‘high’ and ‘low’ are meaningless, and pictures of people in special suits are not news.
- Cross-Promotion: The BBC is in the habit of believing that its own programmes are news. So that what is apparently a ‘news’ story on a web site or TV report, will in reality be nothing more than promotion of other BBC output. This is fine for commercial web sites – I am not paying for them – but the BBC should not do this.
- Corrections. When good news sites make a correction to a story – they note that a correction has been made. This is common practice at The Guardian or the LA Times. But it is not practiced at the BBC who change stories – but leave no record that they ever got anything wrong in the first place.
The BBC Trust is holding a consultation on BBC News so if you have anything you want to say, now would be the time to speak up.