During a recent Friday 10pm BBC News I watched, fascinated, as a member of the newsroom staff slowly made his way up the spiral staircase. He was in full view to the right of the screen, as Fiona Bruce presented...
There he goes, in a black coat and black back-pack, up the stairs. Plod, plod, plod. Wind, wind, wind. I wonder if he’s heading home? Blimey, I wouldn’t want a potential TV audience of four million people watching me as I clopped up a spiral staircase on my way out of the office. Or maybe he’s on his way into the office? I hope he’s going home; I wouldn’t like to work this late on a Friday. There he goes, still climbing. Isn’t there a lift? That looks really hard on the knees.
And so my thoughts meandered. It was all I could do to resist shouting, “Bye! Have a nice weekend! See you Monday!” Anyway, back to Fiona. What was that again? Ah, no, missed it. I think it was something about the civil war in Syria. But it’s lost to me because my attention was diverted by the stranger in black, slogging his way up a spiral staircase.
My attention is diverted a lot by the BBC newsroom that twinkles behind the BBC News presenters. It often looks quite busy, what with people bustling around and all of those screens flashing away importantly. (On the other hand, sometimes it doesn’t look so busy, like on Sunday nights when everyone is either hiding under their desk or waiting to jump out of the airing cupboard to shout “BOO!” at Mishal Husain.)
But there was a lady who crossed the screen from right to left the other night, buttoning up her white cardigan. I wonder where she was going? She seemed to be in a hurry. And what are those two women talking about? Which newspaper is that man reading? Maybe one day if we’re really lucky we’ll be able to see the cleaners emptying the bins and hoovering around Huw Edwards’s feet.
Can I suggest that if the BBC is determined to make sure its news audience’s attention is firmly placed elsewhere during news programmes that it goes the whole hog and stages a production of The Merchant of Venice in the background? Or how about something a bit more modern, maybe Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, or perhaps Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, where everyone could be buried up to their necks in sand. It might sound a bit outré but there’s nothing like pushing the boundaries of news presentation, is there?
What’s that, BBC News? None of this appeals to you? All right, how about a motorcycle display team or a demonstration by police dogs? Or a trapeze act? The possibilities are endless – use your imaginations!
Or maybe you could just let people who want to watch the news, watch the news, without distractions. Maybe, fascinating though it is to catch glimpses of mute, low-level human dramas being played out in the background, it’s not appropriate.
BBC, the news is what you do, it’s your thing. You’re always telling us how you lead the world in news gathering. You probably do, but if you’re going to go out of your way to distract us you might just as well run repeats of Only Fools and Horses and be done with it.
So, send everyone to the canteen during news programmes or screen off the newsroom. Staff need their privacy, rucksacks and all, and we need to concentrate.