John Davies is a senior corporate partner at leading commercial law firm Thrings. Each month John addresses a topical news or business-related issue. This time John questions the importance of 24-hour news.
Do you remember when the news was on the telly at 1.00pm, 6.00pm and 10.00pm?
Yes, it was interspersed with local news, but the afternoon, evening and night bulletins were the Big Three. The night time slot was the big dog. Most children had gone to sleep by then, leaving the adults to settle down on the settee and catch up on the happenings of the day, or in some cases, the day before.
When I was a child I can remember people waiting for the news to arrive: reports from the Falkland Islands 24 hours out of date; films of striking miners across the country being played a long after Mr Scargill and Mrs Thatcher had left the scene. And while everyone was waiting for updates to be delivered by the likes of Kenneth Kendall, Richard Baker, Leonard Parkin and Sandy Gall, those at the heart of the stories were getting on with their lives.
Those days are gone. Long gone. We’re now subjected to 24-hour, multi-channel, multi-jurisdictional coverage. News, news, news. News upon news too – it’s not enough that we have a newsreader on screen; we now need a brightly-lit bar for rolling news underneath the talking head, and often a sidebar just in case we feel we’re missing out on something. Big red, yellow and blue news stories break like waves on a beach, and like waves breaking some are worthy of a look and a mention while others are barely waves at all. But it doesn’t matter. If it’s news, good, bad or irrelevant, it’s being reported.
To be honest, I’ve had a bellyful of news. It’s rarely good. It’s often so graphic that you need to be careful your children don’t walk in and grow up paranoid about the varying dangers of planet Earth. It’s also often unnecessary and unwanted fuel to dangerous fire – in many cases I sit there wondering whether or not certain things would happen or be planned if they were not so widely reported and given continual airtime. If you have a cause and you want to promote it, what better way than the power of an uninterrupted tabloid broadcast?
I wonder what it would be like, just for a week, to switch off news websites, social media and the radio and go back to the Big Three. Do you think we’d survive without the constant need and desire to be kept updated? I for one think we would. I’d give it a whirl, happily tuning in at 10.00pm to see a slowly and gently spinning blue and white planet informing me that the news, read by someone who sounded much posher and more important than anyone else in the world, was about to begin.
A return to the old days. Now that would be news.