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World Cup distorts news values


Derek McMillan
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When three inmates at Guantanamo committed suicide, the BBC covered the story quite seriously, getting responses from Washington correspondents and reactions from other countries.

I turned over to ITN.

They had ten minutes of World Cup trivia including extensive coverage with commentary of a family watching the football on the television. They then had about ten seconds on the Guantanamo story.

In what way is the World Cup "news" rather than "sports news" which used to be a separate entity?

Did the American authorities think it a good day to bury bad news?

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When three inmates at Guantanamo committed suicide, the BBC covered the story quite seriously, getting responses from Washington correspondents and reactions from other countries.

I turned over to ITN.

They had ten minutes of World Cup trivia including extensive coverage with commentary of a family watching the football on the television. They then had about ten seconds on the Guantanamo story.

In what way is the World Cup "news" rather than "sports news" which used to be a separate entity?

Did the American authorities think it a good day to bury bad news?

This goes on all the time (read Lance Price's book, Spin Doctor’s Diary). Take for example the report into the CIA moving prisoners around the world to torture them. The main lead in on all the "serious" television stations was an attack by the Bush administration on the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations. This is a way that the Bush administration controls news communication (it is also the reason why people rely on the internet to get their information). But of course, I am just a conspiracy theorist.

I am sure you are right that a lot of embarrassing news will come out during the World Cup. As a result, it will not get the coverage it deserves. For example, reports on the killing of an innocent civilian by armed police because he looked "foreign".

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I noticed that this tendency really took off during Thatcher's period in office. Remember Erica Roe? (Streaked at Twickers). That happened just as the economic effects of Thatcher's first year in office were beginning to hit the headlines big time. There were some key economic indicators being reported … and papers like the Mail kept the Roe story going for days and days.

My theory is that one of the reasons for the implosion of 'respect' for the British Royal Family is the fact that after May 1979, the evening television news (ITN in particular) started having a compulsory story every single night about the Royal Family (just like they with the leaders of Third World dictatorships - I must have seen hundreds of 'news' items about the Saudi royals, for example). Even if the Windsors had been scintillatingly interesting people (!), they wouldn't have been able to sustain the flow of stories that long, without all the dirty laundry eventually being dug out and exposed to the light. And the Windsors happen to have plenty of this. Remember life before paparazzis? I do.

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