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New blog entry - The Headline Game: from BBC1 to Ceefax  
Posted by Brian D on October 24 2007, 12:06 » Uploaded 24/10/07 12:06  

Media Hell Blog

The Headline Game: from BBC1 to Ceefax

The BBC's top-level decisions on which news stories to cover, and which to avoid, affect everything from BBC1 TV and BBC radio to Ceefax. On a lower rung of perceived importance in media terms, Ceefax nevertheless provides a useful "resource" in that it lists, on a single page, the trickle-down outcome of those top-level decisions.

On 22/10/07, Ceefax included the following in its short list of headline news stories:

Woman filmed drop-kicking kitten

Attacker of elderly man sentenced

Man detained over stabbing death

Rise in repeat violence charges

Nine arrests after fatal shooting

That's five stories on domestic crime out of a total of twenty-one supposedly covering all major news for the whole planet.

And the first three aren't even news. Or, rather, they're old news. The woman abused the kitten back in January. The attack of the elderly man occurred last December. The fatal stabbing happened in May 2006. But because they were very gruesome crimes, the BBC re-reports them months later (eg during sentencing).

The fourth listed – the "rise in repeat violence" – is quite an obscure item. Judge for yourself whether it warrants listing among the day's major stories:

The number of violent criminals who were freed under community supervision and then charged with a further serious offence jumped last year by 36%.

In 2006/7, 83 offenders supervised by probation and other agencies in England and Wales were charged with offences such as murder, manslaughter and rape.

This compares with 61 in 2005/06, Ministry of Justice figures reveal.

Not exactly world-shattering, but it provides the opportunity for a headline which combines the words "rise" and "violence".

Headlines can give misleading impressions and, as we've previously documented, the distorting effect can be systematic. Combined with a tendency to re-report old crimes in sensationalist fashion, they add to the false impression that crime and violence are continually escalating, creating an overblown sense of fear and urgency – and keeping other, arguably more important, stories out of the picture and out of mind.

Sources: (Drop-kicked kitten) (Attacker of elderly man) (Stabbing) (Repeat violence) (Nine arrests)

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