When I was a kid, I distinctly remember that tv went off at around midnight. And I don’t mean my dad turned it off. I mean that, on the rare occasions when I was allowed up that late, television played the national anthem and then did nothing but give out a monotonous long beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.
The BBC had the test card with that girl and rag doll playing noughts and crosses on a blackboard. But there was definitely nothing on. When I got a little older, BBC2 ran Open University shows with lecturers in Kipper ties and bad haircuts boring everyone with long lessons on quantum mechanics or some such. They may as well have had the monotonous long beeeeeeep to be honest.
Today though, we’ve moved to the age of 24 hour television and dozens of tv channels to choose from. With that amount of airtime to fill, tv channels created the rolling news, BBC24 or Sky News being the leading proponents. As well as 24 hour rolling news channels, the through-the-night programming led to the horrors of reality television. 11 series of Big Brother Live broadcasting people sleeping in a house at 4 in the morning. Awful stuff.
Every now and then, on thankfully rare occasions, rolling news and reality tv merge to become one. And this happened yesterday in Chile. All day yesterday, my television, my twitter feed, and my conversations in the pub revolved around the ‘drama’ of the 33 miners being rescued in Chile.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not hard-hearted. It makes me happy to see the men being rescued. It’s lovely to see them being reunited with their families. It’s highly entertaining to see that one of them had both his wife and mistress waiting at the pithead for him to emerge. Talk about awkward moments. It’s highly impressive to see the technical engineering that was involved in digging them out. This is, without a shadow of a doubt, that rarest of beasts a good news story.
But the absolute bombardment of coverage on this rescue is wholly unnecessary. It was a nice happy story to see the first miner coming out, I agree. But was there any need to keep journalists there filling the air for the next 20 hours about who these men are, who their relatives are, who their doctors are, what they’ve been eating, what the temperature has been, and where they’ve been shitting? As I write this, all 33 miners have been rescued but the journalists are repeating the same tales over and over, standing over a deserted mine site wittering about what we all watched happen.
The number of people in my Twitter feed yesterday telling me they were crying watching this coverage was painful. Hysteria anyone? I’m sure there’s other news happening in the world. People are being slaughtered daily in the Sudan. Where’s the BBC’s coverage of that story? The miners were trapped in the first place because of a desperate need to earn a few dollars to escape total poverty and because callous disregard for their safety and wellbeing. Where’s that story? The miners were always going to be safe as soon as they’d been found 7 weeks ago. It’s great that they’re home safe, now move on.
On the other hand, I did enjoy that on Margaret Thatcher’s 85th birthday, the world was ignoring her and celebrating the lives of miners. And not just that, but the world was celebrating the return of south americans from below the surface of the earth thanks to the strategic use of a torpedo. Can’t beat a classic bit of irony like that.