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Thursday, 26 March 2009

Charlie Brooker's Newswipe, BBC4

Did we like it?
Charlie narrows his focus from Screenwipe’s take on what we’re watching on general television, to how our televisual news is presented to us. And boy, do our TV news providers cop it. Here at thecustard.tv we’re constantly bemoaning how news is being re-packaged as entertainment, and this is clearly bugging Brooker, too. A highly amusing, if profoundly depressing, programme ensued. We loved it.

What was good about it?
• Charlie describing how we graduate from child - where we perceive the news as either profoundly boring (economic news) or absolutely terrifying (the IRA Hyde Park bombings or atomic bombs) – to adult, where we realise we need to know what’s going on in the world, but it’s like starting to watch episode 803 of the world’s most complex soap-opera.
• Charlie’s analogy of the banks passing around toxic debt being akin to people passing around boxes of shitty chocolates.
• “The Week in Bullshit” – focused on how the Pope pontificated (I know…) about how the distribution of condoms could not help stop the spread of HIV – and got a religious zealot into the Channel 4 studio to back him up. It also showed how the PR company behind the NatWest Three had spun their situation and succeeded in changing the perception of them as greedy bankers into put-upon family men being held under Guantanamo Bay-type conditions by the evil US legal system.
• Dermot Murnaghan’s Economic Cycle (Dermot Murnaghan. Round Britain. On a bike. Looking for bad news) on Sky News was desperately searching for doom and gloom but Charlie gleefully pointed out how doom-laden Dermot was being thwarted by the general public’s positive outlook.
• t’s nothing we didn’t know, but negative actions will always trump anything positive to top the news agenda. Witness the thousands of peace protestors in Northern Ireland being relegated behind the school shootings in Germany. And the views of a forensic psychologist who pointed out that for 20 years he’d been advising news organisations that the way they reported these tragedies was only glamorising them, and contributing to copycat incidents. Or, as Charlie far more succinctly put it, “only serves to turn this murdering little twat into a nihilistic pin-up boy.”
• Nastha Kaplinksy being ridiculed for saying "arse" because she was trying to pronounce "ours" to poshly.

What was bad about it?
• Even seeing Robert Peston as a figure of ridicule means we have to put up with his smug, doom-mongering gob being plastered over the tv.
• Five News’s appallingly simplistic ‘quantitative easing’/ train metaphor showed how patronising and ‘dumbed down’ some of the news programmes have become.

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