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BBC has no friends left when it all goes horribly wrong

BBC News at 10 (BBC1)


Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant

LeBron James

LeBron James


Kobe Bryant

Some time back, I started to notice that RTE Sports broadcasts had an unusual number of errors, the kind of thing that seemed beyond mere human error in the normal sense, more of an institutional malaise - in any well-run organisation the sports news should have the reliability of the shipping forecast.

If I didn't happen to hear one myself, others would send me the latest specimen, be it simply the wrong score of an inter-county match being read out on the evening news, or some absurdly wrong pronunciation of the name of a tennis player.

And I kept writing about it, because it kept happening.

And then I stopped writing about it, because it stopped happening - or at least it stopped happening with a frequency which had suggested a systemic failure, rather than some presenter just having an off-day.


LeBron James

LeBron James

RTE thanked me for it - not.

I suppose they might claim that my intervention was entirely unrelated to their grappling with this issue, and if that's their story, so be it; I will leave it to the wisdom of our readers to judge that one.

Certainly a lesser man than I might have felt aggrieved that he had pointed out a serious failing in the operating standards of the national broadcaster, without receiving so much as a Christmas card, but I didn't mind at all, not really.

I was happy to perform this public service pro bono, as it were, when the prevailing culture might have dictated a different approach, whereby 'consultants' would enter the arena, offering a range of solutions going forward that might cost RTE something in the region of, say, €350,000. Or maybe €3,500,000, if the consultants were feeling lucky, which they usually are.

Anyway I was reminded of this - and no doubt RTE was reminded of it too - when the BBC News last Sunday night carried a piece about the death of the basketball legend Kobe Bryant that mistakenly featured several scenes from the career of his great rival LeBron James.

Someone, somewhere, in the BBC couldn't tell the difference between these two men, even though James actually had his name emblazoned on the back of his shirt - 'JAMES', it said, quite clearly.

It was a howler which brought into question the basic competence of the BBC crew, and suggested an inability to tell the difference between one black basketball legend and another.

And it might have been regarded simply as a howler, with no deeper meaning, if it wasn't part of a pattern: yes, like that dark period in RTE Sport, this is not an isolated embarrassment for BBC News.

You may recall that they kept making these weird mistakes during the 'Boris' campaign, all of which tended to make 'Boris' look better. And this too had a wider background, whereby the basic journalistic model of the BBC was repeatedly shown to be useless against the forces of the far right.

Come to think of it, RTE's basic journalistic model, which is roughly the same as the BBC model, will also be shown to be useless if our far right, like theirs, is getting large enough to comprise the actual government of the day.

The BBC will say that it is criticised equally by the Brexiters and the Remainers, which means it 'must be doing something right' - but in fact it doesn't mean that at all. Because almost everything said by the Brexiters was either obvious cobblers or a demonstrable lie, it should never have been accorded a status equal to the demonstrably valid arguments of the Remainers.

Yet the BBC persisted with its 'both-sidesism', with the result that its natural allies, who are mostly Remainers, now despise the BBC - the Brexiters always despised it, for their own baseless reasons.

So these days, when BBC News makes a bit of a disgrace of itself, it has no friends who will defend it, nobody who will patiently point out where it might be going astray.

RTE at least had us.

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