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Is Kate Winslet’s split more important than Michael Foot’s funeral?

Posted on 17 March 2010 | 11:03am

Like comments on blogs, sometimes the best ‘Letters to the Editor’ are the shortest ones, and I quote one such from today’s Guardian, from Christopher Bell of Chorleywood, Hertfordshire.

‘Thank you for Jonathan Freedland’s moving account of Michael Foot’s funeral. A shame, then, that the news on BBC1 failed to report the occasion. But then they had to find space for two David Beckham reports, plus coverage of Kate Winslet’s separation.’

I had exactly the same thought watching Monday’s main bulletin. Beckham’s injury, its impact on the World Cup and his remarkable career – I buy that as a proper main bulletin story. Kate Winslet’s separation – I’m not so sure.

To be fair to the BBC, and other media outlets, coverage of Michael’s death was extensive and a lot kinder than the treatment he got from most when Labour leader. But like Mr Bell, I was surprised that the nation’s public service broadcaster did not find a single moment’s space to record an event at which a serving Prime Minister and a second former Labour leader spoke eloquently and movingly about their predecessor. Even the right-wing papers, broadsheet and tabloid alike, covered it properly.

In Maya, my novel about fame in the media age, one of my favourite scenes is when her marriage breaks up and the entire story is told through the mouths of journalists on Sky, which drops a planned ‘special report on Robert Mugabe’s finances’ to keep the rolling news of a celebrity marriage break up going.

When I was at Sky to do an interview, one of the producers told me he would love to be able to say my description of the meltdown that occurs when a big celeb story breaks was over the top ‘I’m afraid it was pretty much spot on,’ he said.

So the worrying thing is less that the BBC bulletin editors did not cover Michael’s funeral but that, once the Becks and Kate stories had broken, they probably didn’t even consider it.

Ps. Good piece in the FT today on how Cameron is failing to win the support he needs up North, whilst he and his Party have given up on Scotland. As I keep saying to Fiona and our London-born and bred children, the further North you go, the brighter shine the lights inside.

*** Buy The Blair Years online and raise cash for Labour

  • Patsy Harrison

    Almost certainly they do. I’m afraid the celebrity culture has taken over all parts of the media, with the possible exception of Radio 3 and the Financial Times. And even Radio 3 talk all the time about famous composers!

  • Jeremy Marshall

    Perhaps no coverage was better that some of the rank hypocrisy I read in some of the papers. was it the Sun or the Mail who talked of him being a giant of a man … hope Private Eye are looking up some of their coverage from the days our press tried to tear him to a million tiny pieces

  • Charlie

    @AC “….the brighter shine the lights inside.”

    The lights may be on, but is anyone at home?

  • Catriona Smith

    Thanks for the reference to Jonathan Freedland’s article AC. I look forward to reading it. As I said on the day you attended Michael Foot’s funeral, what a privilege to have been there! Of course there should have been TV coverage!!It was big news and how patronising to the British public that the BBC decided against showing it.
    Could they not have broadcast it on the Parliament channel and at least those who were interested could have seen it?
    I am a big BBC fan, but it has to be said that the news coverage in the UK is really poor. (The exception is Channel 4 News) Morning news coverage on TV is dire;the tone patronising and infantile. Thank heavens the BBC News website can be scanned in minutes.
    I was so glad to see your point re’ the Tories and Scotland as this has been my experience, though I sometimes find myself out on a limb as the mood up here is so very different from down south. The fear is, of course, that if the Tories get in down south, we are stuck with them too,even if NO Tories are elected in Scotland.This would pave the way for the referendum which A Salmond would dearly love. I,though, feel optimistic about the election, so let’s keep our chins up!!

  • Mike Morris

    While accepting that celebrity stories feature too heavily in all forms of the British media, I would say that it was not unreasonable for the BBC to decide against covering Michael Foot’s funeral. His death led the six and ten o clock bulletins despite the fact that he’d never been Prime Minister and the fact that he was in his late nineties. This is not to say that his death shouldn’t have been marked, but I didn’t see it as a lead. I very much enjoyed Michael Cockerell’s portrait of Michael Foot on BBC 2 shortly after his death even though it was a rerun of a programme that was thirteen years old. The obvious love that Michael Foot and Jill Craigie had for each other shone through and I particularly enjoyed his dimissal of David Owen’s criticism.

  • FX Man

    Perhaps it’s just that the BBC realises that New Labour with one Foot in the grave isn’t much of a story anymore…