We had another guest lecture at Uni yesterday. Dorothy Byrne, Head of News and Current Affairs, gave a talk on “The need for ambition and risk in TV”.
An interesting session – she made some great remarks about coverage of certain areas such as science and Northern Ireland politics. N.I in particular being very topical due to the events yesterday which, I was shocked to find out, didn’t get as much coverage in the UK press as I’d have hoped.
The Indepedent tried its damnedest to make a dramatic front page, with the title “The Hands of History” and pictures of famous political handshakes through the years. This fell flat on its face, though, when it reminded readers that Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams didn’t actually shake hands at all.
Having the majority of my family in Ireland, this news has extra resonance, and I very much hope it is the beginning of something very positive for Norhern Ireland.
Back to the guest lecture. Dorothy is clearly very good at her job. She knows what makes good journalism, and more importantly, she knows what doesn’t. Her talk convinced all in the room, I’d imagine, that Channel Four’s news and current affairs output is nothing short of sensational.
But it really isn’t.
You see, the problem with Channel Four is that no matter how hard it tries, and no matter how good its news programs are, it will still never get over the fact that they are Channel Four. By this I mean that in amongst all the other programs it shows (which, admittedly, are normally very good) the news just doesn’t have the same weight that it does from the BBC, or even ITV.
It’s no good putting great journalism in between Hollyoaks and Wife Swap – it alienates people. Channel Four bosses realise this, I’m sure, as More4 launched last year to muted anticipation. A hefty advertising campaign — mainly focusing on a documentary on what would happen if George Bush was to be assassinated — meant early interest, but I can’t name anything that’s been on there since.
Even the name ‘More4′ suggests that it’s simply more of the same old thing.
A lecturer at our Uni, Richard Keeble, asked Dorothy a question about coverage of politics in Africa. He suggested there wasn’t enough – a statement that Dorothy quickly put down. There has been shows about Africa, she said. Sadly, Richard had never seen it. Which proves my point again that no-one really watches Channel Four News.
The same happened again when Nick Nuttall, another lecturer, admitted to not watching Dispatches either.
What a shame it is that Channel Four News is wasted. Especially since they have on their team one of the greatest journalists of our generation, Jon Snow.