Imagine: The (Non-)Borking of a BBC Infotainment Mufti

Child’s play: The Beeb used to model the English language; now it merely tortures it.

Like to take a cement fix
Be a standing cinema
Dress my friends up
just for show
See them as they really are
Put a peephole in my brain
Two New Pence to have a go
I’d like to be a gallery
Put you all inside my show

–Bowie, “Andy Warhol”

A further cases in point regarding the current state of the journalistic profession in Blighty and its former crown colonies. See also

BBC executive Alan Yentob escapes unpunished for misleading viewers: The BBC editor’s blog — 90% of it pumping forthcoming BBC infotainment products as must-see TV, it seems to me — tersely cites this item from the Daily Mail on the scandalous — scandalous! — non-borking of a senior BBC program mufti.

Yentob appeared in footage manipulated to make it look as if he was conducting interviews for BBC1’s Imagine series even though he was not actually there.


Writes Brazilian radio journalist Milton Jung (my translation):

Soon after I entered the business, there were [tales of] a war correspondent who dug a trench in his hotel room and never left it until the conflict was over. His tactics were simple: He sent his photographer out to the battlefield with a tape recorder in hand. That provided the audio background to the bulletins that he issued over the telephone, live, from his hotel headquarters. – Milton Jung

A very similar fact-pattern is at issue here:

He [Yentob] allowed images of himself to be inserted, nodding in apparent agreement with guests, despite the fact that the questions were being posed by a researcher or producer.

But as one comment notes:

The “ban the TV tax” brigade would do well to realise that nearly all TV interviews are recorded in this way: the interviewer records their questions, the interviewee records their answers, the interviewer is recorded nodding in agreement, and the whole lot is then edited together. This has been standard practice for decades across the industry, worldwide — Sky, C4, ITV, NBC, CBS… The only issue here is that Yentob wasn’t in the same room — hardly a sacking offence.

You could always just (1) use two cameras, or, if you are operating on a budget, or want that cinema verité feel, (2) swing one camera back and forth between the questioner and the answerer.

I wonder if ITV journalist John Pilger would confirm that this scumbling of fact and fiction is a standard practice there as well?

So, wow, great Scott, is this what the BBC 2.0 is reduced to?

The argument that everybody does it, so why not us?

As TV Globo’s scabrous Arnaldo Jabor put it so delicately, in another context:

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Every scandal is a “-gate.”

The “Noddygate” incidents, as they rapidly became known, are said to have happened on “a few occasions” during the course of each series of Imagine because of Yentob’s busy filming schedule.

Trivial but lucrative infotainment subject matter:

The show, which has featured Bryn Terfel, the opera singer, the artists Gilbert and George, and musicians Jarvis Cocker, Radiohead and David Bowie, was launched in 2003.

If you got me an interview with Bowie, I would damn well show up.

Big fan, every since my mom gave me a copy of Hunky Dory when I was 11 years old.

Dealing severely with this aberration!

Last month, the BBC director general, Mark Thompson, told staff that those involved in deceptions could face dismissal.

Taking it out on labor while directing a mild finger-wagging at management, critics are saying.

Mark Thompson was last seen signing a memorandum of understanding with Microsoft — but denying that the deal in any way made the Beeb a pleasure-slave to a proprietary technology company with an ugly history of gabbling FUD-marketing tactics. See

“Nothing matters more than trust and fair dealing with our audiences,” he told staff.

And our advertorial content providers.

Writes another commentator on the case:

Surely, as head of the ‘company’ the buck stops with Alan, and therefore, he is fired, without any payoff.

I admit to sympathizing with that point of view.

Howell Raines of the New York Times was borked over the Jayson Blair affair, after all.

And Raines, by all accounts, was and is a fine, even eminent professional.

But when you have “managing” in your job title, you presumably get paid the big bucks to manage.

Same goes for Dan Rather.

What’s missing from this debate, I think, is concrete information on the BBC’s stated journalistic standards — and close study of some the logic-chopping, Humpty Dumptyist applications of those principles to practical cases that apparently goes on at the “erotic gherkin” these days.
See, for example:

BBC management, gabbling like a banana-republican televangelist, totally undermining the dedicated work of the many fine journalists who bust their asses trying to keep the brasswork polished.

Did you ever think you would live to see the day?

REPORT OF THE INDEPENDENT PANEL FOR THE BBC TRUST ON IMPARTIALITY OF BBC BUSINESS COVERAGE: The Budd Commission on BBC Business Journalism (PDF). Budd on FUD, for short. Click to zoom.


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