Thank God For Sky And CNN
I criticised the BBC's coverage of the Presidential election and there's now general agreement that it was a shambles, redeemed only by Gore Vidal's tired and emotional spat with David Dimbleby.
The BBC's coverage of the Inauguration yesterday was equally dreadful. I'm amazed that a broadcaster with the BBC's reputation could get it so wrong. It was misjudgement piled on misjudgement.
Some things probably seemed a good idea at the planning meetings.
Let's include a British angle. How people here are reacting to Obama, especially the black community. Let's do an OB from the Bernie Grant Centre in Tottenham.
Except that they cut away to Tottenham not long before Obama appeared on the podium. Fearing they might not go back to Washington in time, I had to flick to Sky.
With an event of this magnitude, a broadcaster must stay at the location. By all means switch between different vantage points and do reports from the crowd. But the viewer doesn't want to miss anything and wants the illusion of being there with a ringside seat.
The other massive misjudgement of the BBC correspondents was never to shut the fuck up. There's a time for analysis but it's not minutes before the ceremony starts. That was not the time for Matt Frei to embark on a description of the changing role of the Vice-President over the years.
The golden rule, ignored by the BBC's prima donnas but admirably followed by Sky, is to sometimes shut up and let the pictures and the sound feed speak for themselves.
"Let's just watch this for a while", Sky's Jeremy Thompson would say, or "let's just listen to the crowd for a bit."
Maybe the control freaks at the BBC didn't like having to use pooled pictures, for if you flicked through the news channels the pictures were usually identical. So they kept cutting away to their own OBs and pre-recorded packages.
Like Sky, the CNN gang also knew when to shut up. And one simply has to spend some time with CNN on these occasions if only to see those magical names appear on screen: Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash.
Yesterday they also had a political correspondent called Candy Crowley who complained that she was immediately in front of the Presidential limousine on a flat-bed truck, looking like the Wreck of the Hesperus (an old expression my mother used to use). Perhaps when she agreed to this she misheard the producer's question: 'Are you up for a truck?'
CNN like some technological wizardry on these occasions. One of them this time was an exclusive satellite picture of the events which showed the crowds as a dense grey blur "looking like ants". Given how long we've had satellite pictures, this didn't exactly have the Wow Factor.
The Inaugural Luncheon was a curiously homely affair, resembling a small town Rotary Lunch rather than an historic state occasion. Two old buffers, including Ted Kennedy, collapsed during the meal. This reminded me of the time I addressed a Rotary Dinner and several elderly gentlemen appeared to have died. But, on closer inspection, they were just asleep.
At the end of the meal, Obama and Biden were each presented with a lead crystal bowl. The other guests were all given a souvenir vase (or 'vaize' as it was described.) All that was missing was the thank-you to the Secretary's wife Wilma for the lovely flower arrangements and a request that members give the Treasurer their money for the forthcoming trip to a cheese factory.
The evening (UK time) brought the Inaugural Parade and the thought that Obama is either a very good actor or very weird, either of which are troubling. For has any man ever looked so delighted at watching 637 Marching Bands? And this horror was inflicted on the world soon after the announcement that America would abandon the practice of torture.
I sat up until eleven in the hope of seeing the Gay and Lesbian Band but without success. When Sky said the parade might last another two hours I gave up and went to bed.
The Gay Band were a late addition to balance the participation of a homophobic preacher in the inauguration. But they were probably at the back of the parade, which may well be where gay people will be in the administration's priorities. This little episode is a good example of the 'being all things to all men' school of politics - the skill of the harlot throughout the ages.
But it's early days. For now, let's content ourselves with bashing the BBC.