TV review: Your News

This is the first of what might become a series of reviews – definitely not all as excessively detailed as the below – of TV programmes which I feel are unlikely to be reviewed elsewhere. Possible future contenders include BBC Parliament’s The Record, BBC News’s Click, and BBC Two’s post-Newsnight weather bulletin.

yournews

"Your News" is a strange programme, whose weekly 15-to-20-minute dose is given several different outings each weekend on the BBC News channel.

To call it merely "strange" is perhaps to go a little too easy on it: this programme is actually painfully bad in most respects, although if I’m at a loose end when its title shows up in the now and next listings, I will usually opt to cringe my way through it, for reasons which will perhaps become clear below.

What’s in it?

The main elements of the show include:

  • A sort of BBC Nowheresville local news programme-style feature, in which they report on something mildly heartening or distressing having happened to a small number of people.

    Note that the heartening or distressing occurrence will not have been deemed interesting or important enough by any of the BBC’s numerous other news outlets to warrant any previous coverage, but somehow has become worthy of national news coverage after an involved party contacted Your News about it.

    In fairness, the fact that someone is prepared to admit on national TV to having watched (let alone contacted) Your News is perhaps newsworthy in itself.

  • A Top Of The Pops-style countdown of the top ten most-read stories on the BBC News web site this week.

    The main area of interest here is for anyone seeking guidance on how upset they should be by any particular ‘bad news’ story.

    Originally, this feature was accompanied by a jaunty take on some pop-chart countdown music in the background throughout. This meant that when a particularly tragic tale was among the top ten, the music didn’t exactly make for sensitive accompaniment.

    It was therefore interesting to see where the too-sad-for-music line was drawn: a single accidental death in Britain might invoke a respectful silence, while a handful of remote paupers going missing, presumed dead, might not.

    Recently, though, they have given their chart backing music a major overhaul, sucking much of the cheeriness out of it. At the same time, they have now decided on no fewer than three levels of gravity:

    1. Full-volume musical accompaniment: This story is perfectly fine. Perhaps a celebrity has been caught by paparazzi having an affair with a page 3 girl. Ha, ha!

    2. Very quiet musical accompaniment: Oh dear. This time the celebrity has been caught exposing himself to a child via his webcam. Not laughing now.

    3. No music: Oh no. The celebrity has murdered the child’s entire family, then set fire to an old people’s home. That’s really not at all good, except for BBC web site traffic levels.

    Perhaps I’ll start keeping a note of which stories get which treatment. Finally, a straightforward, statistical way to study the news values of both the BBC and its web site users through one simple countdown! Revolutionary.

  • A series of Flickr-style slideshows of viewers’ photos. Generally when watching this feature for the first time, your thought process will progress roughly like this, as the photos play through:

    Ooh, look, something newsworthy must have been happening here. There are police cars… a fire engine… ooh, and a fire. Exciting. Oh yes, there they are putting out the fire. I wonder what caused that. It looks big. Oh, no explanation… we’ve moved on somewhere else, what’s this? An unusual pattern of sunset in the sky over Yorkshire. Hmm, maybe these pictures aren’t supposed to be as newsworthy as I had assumed they might be, what with them being on the BBC News channel. Eh, what’s this? Isn’t that just… a cat pulling a funny face?! Why on earth is this on the news? Oh, that’s the end of the pictures now. Weird.

  • If you’re ‘lucky’, there’ll be a popular YouTube video or two too. These are always about as newsworthy as whatever the last picture was in the viewers’ photos section. Be careful if you tune in during this segment: only the news ticker and channel logo will enable you to tell you haven’t accidentally tuned into ITV1 during You’ve Been Framed.

  • The most riveting part of Your News is the part where they (literally) sellotape a picture of a BBC News studio backdrop to the front of a shop in whichever town they’re visiting for the opening ‘news’ item, then ask passers-by to stand in front of it and spEak They’re bRanes about BBC News into the camera.

    It’s a bit like if someone put a "Have Your Say" post on the BBC web site asking what people thought about BBC News, encouraging people to comment on it even if they didn’t think what they had to say was interesting – but with the added problem that to qualify for participation in this feature, the users didn’t even have to be capable of working out how to turn on and operate a computer. These commenters’ only qualification for the role was being able to navigate along a pavement in their own town.

    This section of the show provides an opportunity to play what you might call the Your News Drinking Game, although as a teetotaller I’m going to opt to name it "Your News Bingo".

    Your News Bingo

    Fill in about five random items from the list below onto a blank bingo card grid. Then simply cross each one off (or have a drink) as one of the passers-by mumbles something along the lines of what it says. (Always include at least one of the ones marked with an asterisk, because these are practically guaranteed to come up, and it’s nice to feel you’ve made at some progress in the game.)

    • "I think there should be more good news"
    • "I want to hear more about what’s happening in my local area"*
    • "I think the news is too boring"
    • "I think the news repeats itself over and over again, always going on about the same stuff"
    • "I don’t really understand what they say on the news, it’s too complicated"
    • "I think the news goes too in-depth"
    • "I think there should be more sport"*
    • "I think there should be less sport"
    • "There’s not enough stuff on the news that’s relevant to people like me"*
    • "There should be more stuff for young people on the news"
    • "I like the news"*
    • "I think Your News is the best programme on the BBC News channel. If only there were more programmes like it. It’s clearly a worthwhile public service endeavour. Well done, BBC!" (If this one ever comes up, it will entitle you to an instant full house and/or entire bottle of vodka. Don’t hold your breath.)

What’s the point of Your News?

I think this programme was born out of a number of desires:

  1. To make the BBC seem relevant and in touch with the latest technology. (Ooh, YouTube videos. Ooh, digital photos. Etc.)

  2. Post-Hutton, to make the BBC News department appear to be listening to its audience and accountable to them. See also the rather more worthwhile NewsWatch endeavour.

  3. To try (and almost inevitably fail) to capture the spirit of Web 2.0 on television – audience participation, interactivity, you bring us the news, etc.

  4. To give ‘da yoof’ something to enjoy on BBC News. (This aim explains the fact that the camerawork on literally every link in the programme involves a series of fast zooms and sudden twists, because everyone who works in TV knows that young people simply can’t abide the idea of a picture staying still for longer than five seconds so will change channel if they don’t keep them interested – to the point of motion sickness.)

Instead of achieving any of these dubious aims, the BBC has made this bizarre hash of a programme which can only really become entertaining when viewed with the addition of liberal dollops of ridicule and time-passing additions like Your News Bingo.

On the plus side, when presented with a programme which wanted to seem cool, trendy and with-it but ended up laughable, the theme tune composer was able to capture the whole situation perfectly. Enjoy!

Rating

3/10 at face value; 6/10 when watched out of amused bewilderment at this show’s presence on Britain’s flagship news channel.

When can I watch it?

Tune in to Your News at 1530 BST on Saturday and again at 1030, 1530 and 2330 BST on Sundays

says the Your News web site, although being a short programme it generally starts about ten minutes later than any of those times.

Advertisements

2 Responses

  1. I always find myself watching this and then halfway through thinking:

    “What the hell am I watching? What could I not gain here, much quicker by just looking at the BBC website? Who are these idiots and why are they filming them?!”

    The News Bingo is the greatest parody of vox pops ever made (it is a parody right?) The rest could be gratefully slashed from the BBC budget by some Tim Parker type overlord figure.

  2. […] Posted on 15 December 2008 by Pushing the boundary I’ve only reviewed one TV programme so far: Your News. I now understand that this coming weekend’s edition of this programme will be the last one ever, […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: