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
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.
(Attacker of elderly man)