Monday, May 03, 2004

Nothing much ever changes - well, at least in the world of airtime-filling television punditry. BBC Parliament is showing the election night coverage from the general election in 1979 until 11pm tonight. Can it really be 25 years ago that [spoiler alert] Thatcher came to power? Admittedly it was before I was born, and I'm getting much too old, I suppose it must be true.

But watching the coverage is quite amusing, as the presenters are incredibly young [Angela Rippon did news? David Dimbleby being a confident young man], yet they are still making the same comments today. It is a little confusing having a swingometre without Peter Snow attached. The 1979 production team also did a retrospective of the 1954 election, which showed how little the coverage had changed. It also showed the BBC's pride and joy - an electronic computer which was to be used to analyse the results, except the computer was a wall to the studio.

It is almost eerie how little has changed - the graphics are obviously state of the art, but have always been more for the sake of having swish graphics than for actually doing anything. It's like watching Doctor Who. The constant cutting between different locations, different interviews, different angles is as dominant as it is today. And so is the need to fill airtime when there is remarkably little content, and so people suggest, repeat and correct things, volunteer anecdotes that do not have a resolution. And the media still belittle people tremendously, such as the "old biddys" of Guildford.

The only major change that has occurred since then is that the television stations no longer acknowledge the existence of the competition. In the 1979 footage is a long pan round the street outside the Mrs Thatcher's house, ending on the reporter standing by the gate. Except most of the pan was filled with the side of the ITN camera and reporter. Nowadays, both will fiercely pretend the other does not exist - and so situations occur in which two people doing pieces live to camera are both audible on both channels, and the directors enter into a game of chicken, eking out the interview to see who will yield first.

So as with most live reporting, the output of 1979's election coverage does seem to be a triumph of style over content. But then they hadn't yet had the lingering awareness that they were getting into "The Day Today" territory.


PS. BBC1 is showing Pearl Harbour tonight. Big film, network premiere, and yet very little publicity for it. I wonder why? Could it be that they realise it got panned[1], and so, having found they have somehow bought the rights, they are desperately trying to pretend they're not really showing it. Stick it on, but do that annoying news in the middle thing to discourage people, and hope that ITV is showing a decent Bond film. But no such luck - Bond is on during the afternoon, and ITV are doing Coronation Street and a sequel. Channel 4 appear to be ignoring the bank holiday, and BBC2 is doing snooker. Looks like BBC Parliament might be the most interesting choice. This is worrying.

[1] Put it like this: the Radio Times gives it 2 stars. It gives Days of Thunder 3.

Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?