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Does US TV put BBC election coverage to shame?

February 13th, 2008

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    Why can’t they focus on results and analysis not the spectacle?

Like many site visitors, no doubt, I have been spending at least one night a week during 2008 following the absorbing story of the race for the White House on the internet and on the US news channels that are available here.

And I have been mighty impressed by the latter which put the fare that the BBC and others produce in the UK to shame.

    What the Americans have realised is that what matters with results programmes are the results and all the effort is put into gathering, presenting and analysing a mass of data in a form that is easy and gripping to follow.

There are no lofty hosts like the Dimblebys. there are few outside broadcasts except those following the key players, and the US news networks don’t seem to have those silly time-wasting three-party discussions where politicians try to score points off each other. The US coverage also avoids those irrelevant “How are they seeing it in the White Lion?” sequences which seem to be a speciality of the BBC.

It is as though the Corporation is not confident that it can explain the core story so it builds in a mass of odd items to try to “sex-up” the coverage. This simply does not work and means that the producers are often so tied up trying to figure out whether links to different locations are working that they are not following the narrative that is unfolding.

You try on election night to find the specific results you are interested in. In the old days they told us to check CEEFAX – now we get referred to the web-sites.

Please Mr BBC, ITN and Sky – can we have a US-style approach next time?

I should add that I spent more than a decade working as an editor with BBC national news and was involved in a number of election programmes. Those of us with a passion for politics were making the same points then.

Mike Smithson






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