Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Sky - never wrong for long?

On Sunday evening Sky began excitedly reporting a major breakthrough in the struggle for control of Libya. The news channel's special correspondent was riding with a convoy of rebels into Tripoli, Libya's capital.
Surrounded by excited and bedraggled fighters, with the sound of gunfire providing a soundtrack suited to a Hollywood thriller, it was 24 hour news at its best.

Social media was soon alive with viewers announcing they were watching 'award winning television', that Alex Crawford was 'the new Kate Aidie' and questioning what the BBC were playing at lagging so far behind the fast developing story.

Just over 24 hours  later and the situation looks very different. Saif Gaddafi appeared on the streets of Tripoli last night and even took TV journalists on a tour to demonstrate his father was still in control. The euphoria of Sunday night has diminished.

There are two points of substance here. While the BBC has many failings - I frequently criticise them for these - on news stories as big as this it has a duty to report the facts. It does not have the luxury of reporting 'Sky Sources' as a reason for breaking news.

The second is 24 hour news in general is a source of entertainment offering an instant view of life around the world. In situations like we saw on Sunday night, where Alex Crawford was reporting, this view she was sharing with us was a tiny element of a much bigger and complex picture which was, and is, developing fast.

The 'fog of war' as the cliché goes is a useful way to look at events unfolding in front of our eyes through the rolling news channels.   It is important therefore that we don't get too caught up in what we are seeing - often this is just a microcosm of a wider world. Otherwise we might have to re install Sky's old tag line - 'Never Wrong For Long'.

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