I normally have to get into my office in London’s docklands financial centre of Canary Wharf at some ungodly hour in the morning, so I rarely get the chance to browse the news headlines on television or radio before rushing off for the Tube. But laid low with a nasty headcold this morning, I watched the BBC Breakfast television show for about 30 minutes. This is what I saw:
Item: The local council in Richmond, west London, is proposing to slap heavy parking taxes on people who own cars that are deemed ecologically incorrect (SUVs, etc). The programme interviewed a few bedraggled locals moaning about this, a retired TV personality who said it was a jolly good idea, and left it at that.
Item: A group of MPs want to ban sale of fireworks to ordinary citizens because loud bangs emitted by such things frighten animals and the elderly. We had a brief “debate” in the studio between a puritanical MP and an elderly lady who said what a shame it would be if fireworks were banned. No clear defence was made of the right for law-abiding people to have their fun. The safety-trumps-liberty issue was taken as a given.
Item: The pop star Madonna, who is trying to adopt a baby boy from the African nation of Malawi, has spoken of her anguish about this bureaucracy involved on the Opra Winfrey TV show in the US. This was deemed to be a news item worthy of the BBC’s attention.
Item: recycling of baby’s diapers.
Item: Litigation continues between ITN, the British television network, and the US authorities, over the death of ITN veteran broadcaster Terry Lloyd in Iraq about three years ago.
Item: BBC business journalist discusses how to avoid back injuries in the workplace. It is taken as given that companies must be forced to spend more money to ensure their staff are comfortable.
Now I think a trend is at work here. Many of the “news” items are pretty minor stuff, compared to the ongoing crackup in the Middle East, etc. They are relatively minor stories, what I would call “consumer journalism” stuff that typically used to be confined to daytime television and the dumber ends of the tabloid press. Maybe the producers figure that viewers are unable to digest anything more substantial at 7 in the morning and maybe they are right (but radio news and current affairs seems to have more gravitas, or at least it used to). However, the choice of subjects also reflect the current liberal/left intelligentsia’s obsession with bossing us around in order to protect the environment; they reflect a distinct strain of neo-puritanism (such as Richmond’s persecution of owners of big cars and bashing of fireworks), and an assumption that the child custody arrangements of a person, even a famous one like Madonna, are any of the State’s business.
Bring on Guy Fawke’s Night, is all I can say.