On the 15th of February, I was sitting in a pub in London. As is often the case nowadays, this pub had flat screen televisions on some of the walls, and they were switched to the BBC’s 24 hour news channel. This too is common, as is the practice of switching down the sound and turning on the simultaneous subtitles that are transmitted with the broadcast, theoretically for the benefit of the deaf, but also useful in other places (such as pubs) where it might not be possible for viewers to listen to the audio. For live broadcasts such as news, the audio is being thrown through computer voice recognition software and the subtitles generated automatically. It appears that particularly egregious or hilarious errors are then corrected by a human, but not until after viewers had seen them.
In any event, the news was of Sean Penn’s trip to Argentina, where he had been prancing around, referring to the conflict over the “Malvinas”, and just generally behaving like a self-important Hollywood star talking about things he does not understand. Yawn, actually. What was more interesting to me was the BBC coverage. The studio talking head in London said a few words, and then crossed to someone somewhere else, a South American reporter who was presumably somewhere nearer to Buenos Aires. (I didn’t record the names of the talking heads, unfortunately). The two had a conversation on air. The South American correspondent more or less repeated what had been said already. Then he uttered this lovely line.
Actually Sean Penn has gone to Uruguay today, or Paraguay – it is one of the two…
Huh? I mean, huh? Disregarding the fact that the BBCs South American correspondent should actually know where Sean Penn has gone before going on air to talk about Sean Penn, there are other things that helpful to know. Uruguay – nice place on the coast on the other side of the River Plate from Buenos Aires – in fact in many ways almost an extension of Buenos Aires and so close that one can almost sneeze and discover that one is there. Exactly the sort of place that a shallow Hollywood star likes to go to to be fawned on by the President. Also, the “He has gone there today” thing. You have a schedule of events in BA and someone throws an event in Uruguay in the middle of it. That works.
Paraguay on the other hand – dubious and rather lawless inland place that Sean Penn wouldn’t be seen dead in.Getting there from BA is a bit more work, and going there is not quite such a casual thing, so it is much less likely he would have an engagement there the day after one in BA.
They are not, in fact, very similar, and they are impossible to confuse if you know anything at all about them. However, they are small countries between Argentina and Brazil that have similar names, which I suppose makes it likely that today’s BBC reporters will confuse them. Is this guy based in Rio or something? Or is he in the next studio just pretending to be in South America. One does at least hope they can occasionally employ people who can deduce B from A, but not here.
Perhaps the budget has been cut. If so, am I admitting that my feelings about this are mixed?