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    Our betters

    Overheard at the bar the other night, spoken between two always-loud friends from the same part of the British Isles:

    “Well, I get both CNN and the BBC, you know, and I always think–well, let me put it this way: CNN is entertainment, and the BBC is news.”

    “Oh, very much so. By the way, isn’t that weather guy…Rob Mar…Mar….”

    “Marciano! A real hottie!”

    “Can’t get enough of him!”

    To impress upon his mate (and, I’m fairly certain, everyone within earshot–he’s that type) the seriousness of the distinction, Speaker 1 drew out the word news with suitable fake-RP/genuine-gasbag portentousness: nee-yeeewwwwwz.

    I’m usually very good about not chortling audibly in such situations, but I happened to be sitting with my English buddy, with whom I e-mail news stories and things back and forth frequently through the day. I made the mistake of catching his eye. At that point, it was over.

    Of course, it wasn’t the novelty of the opinions expressed that I found funny. I’ve heard that kind of nonsense many times before. But it’s still nonsense.

    I have little objection to the characterization of CNN as a source of mere entertainment, given that its “in-depth coverage” is like World Book Encyclopedia come to life: all cutesy-poo visuals and repellantly chipper presentation, presumably calibrated to reassure the mass audience that it will not be confronted with anything too complicated, taxing to the intellect, or challenging to existing assumptions.

    I just don’t see how the BBC–especially BBC World, which has notably CNN-ified itself over the years–can be thought to bring anything more elevated to the mix. It’s not that the BBC is worse. For one thing, the reporters don’t do as much of that gruesome, would-be-matey joshing with one another as they do on American channels. (Is there no way to make them cut that out?) But you get the same pat, preconception-confirming reporting on stories that you get everywhere else. You get the same “heartwarming” human interest pieces, which I sometimes think are purposefully contrived to make any civilized person’s flesh crawl. You get the same asinine patter made necessary by being on the air all day. And you get the same unilluminating Q&A shows. Even the Hard Talk guy, whatever his name is (if he were cuter I’d make more of an effort to remember), is more known for his confrontational-jerk style of delivering questions than for actually, you know, drawing better information out of his subjects than other interviewers do.

    At times I prefer the BBC because I find the cool composure of the newsreaders welcome. Just spit out the story already. At other times it’s kind of nice the way CNN (as well as MSNBC) is populated by people who appear frankly aware that they’re feeding you Spam on Wonder smeared with Miracle Whip Lite. That probably says something about my native Yank preference for forthrightness.

    Just to end on a suitable note of (North) American frivolity: Rondi thinks Silda (Mrs. Eliot) Spitzer looks like Jennifer Aniston. There’s totally a Hollywood angle on everything if you just look hard enough!

    7 Responses to “Our betters”

    1. Rondi says:

      Actually, I didn’t have to look hard to see the resemblance between Silda and Jen!

      As for the CNN/BBC conversation, the chattering classes here in Canada have the same attitudes about the CBC (the Caliphate Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). Personally I don’t think our public broadcaster gives me news *or* entertainment, unless one finds being pummelled with anti-American and anti-free market propaganda entertaining.

    2. Maria says:

      I cannot comment on CNN TV news vs. BBC TV news, but I can comment on National Public Radio vs. BBC World Service Radio. I like both services. But, I find the BBC radio broadcast to be a refreshing change from NPR. I get to actually hear decent reports from Afghanistan and many other parts of the world that NPR does not cover… or, at least not nearly as well. And, I love the voice of John Jason. (I know, it’s a totally obscure reference that only BBC radio geeks would understand). 😉

    3. Sean Kinsell says:

      Rondi, the only reason I watch television news at all is that it’s hard to be reading the websites of newspapers while buttoning your shirt in the morning. And yes, most of the entertainment is of the unintentional variety.

      Maria, you can get BBC Radio online, and I do listen occasionally. Don’t know why, but radio news has never really done it for me. Out of my college friends, I think I’m the only one who doesn’t listen to NPR a lot.

    4. fenneke says:

      > Even the Hard Talk guy, whatever his name is (if he were cuter I’d make more of an effort to remember)…

      Do you mean Jeremy Paxman? I think the Vulture newsreader of the Muppet show could’ve been modelled after him :-)

    5. Sean Kinsell says:

      No, I mean Stephen Sackur. I looked it up, I mean; I didn’t remember. (Jeremy Paxman is the one who looks like Richard Gere with digestion problems, right?)

    6. Internet Ronin says:

      Rarely watch either so I wouldn’t know which is better. AFAIK know, however, BBC does not have a Nancy Grace equivalent and deserve full credit for that. I’m not sure they have an Anderson Cooper either (someone whose career was “made” by wildly inaccurate reporting during Katrina).

    7. Sean Kinsell says:

      But Nancy and Anderson have felt pain. Who cares whether they actually know what they’re talking about?

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