Keen to find out what Gordon Brown said in his speech about Afghanistan, I tuned into the BBC News Channel at 9pm. What bits I saw seemed good. Clear about why our troops are there. Clear about the link to life here. It cannot be stated often enough.
And to be fair, in total there were ten minutes devoted to Afghanistan. But – and I did not have my stopwatch running – a relatively small percentage of that wert on telling us what GB actually said. Obviously there had to be reporting of the many casualties of the Nato bombing of oil tankers. Equally, there was bound to be coverage of the return home of two more British soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
But did we really need, in addition to the usual Nick Robinson homilies, a two-way from a BBC reporter that can generously be described as an incoherent ramble. The presenter in the studio asked him something along the lines of whether Gordon Brown had done a good job of persuading his critics – as though this young reporter, who I confess I have never seen before, and whose name I did not catch – was somehow the great judge on these matters.
When will the broadcasters learn that when they have 24 hours worth of space to fill, more of it might be filled the comments of the news-makers, not just the analysis of the news-gatherers? When I have said this about importanrt speeches before, they usually come back with a reminder that the whole speech was covered live, which I assume this one was. But the vast bulk of people interested in it will not have seen it live. There is then a duty, particulalry on a public service broadcaster, to ensure proper, extensive coverage throughout the rest of the day.
Ten minutes qualifies as exrensive in today’s terms, certainly. But I don’t think the speech got the treatment it merited, given the subject, the timing, and its current importance. I shall now go and read it in full.