The BBC’s Ship of Fools

Watching the BBC’s election night coverage one wondered if the Corporation’s executives had been gripped with a death wish. If ever there was a way of illustrating the Murdoch ratpack’s caricature of the BBC as an overmighty, taxpayer-featherbedded Quango, then the idea of chartering (for £30k, I understand) a Thames party barge and loading it up with drunken celebs, most of whom know zilch about politics, was a pretty good way of doing it. And the election studio, a cross between the bridge of a starship and a design-student’s diploma portfolio submission, seemingly required so much processing power that it couldn’t keep up with a simple RSS feed. All hat and no cattle, as LBJ might have said. These and other points were nicely made by Neil Midgley in his Telegraph review. Sample:

Unlike her exemplary [leaders’] debate production, Auntie did not shine on election night. Yes, it was a lovely big studio with the potential for lots of sweeping long shots, and far nicer – despite all the computer enhancement ITV could muster – than the ITN basement in Grays Inn Road. But a big chunk of the BBC’s graphics wall failed within the first five minutes, leading to a hurried close-up of Dimbleby that was no whizzier than ITV’s presentation of Alastair Stewart.

As they promised, ITV seemed faster with the results than either the BBC or Sky. Detail matters: unlike the BBC, ITV’s on-screen presentation of each constituency’s result gave us the crucial fact – the swing – from the get-go.

ITV made much better use of social media and citizen reporting, with Phil Reay-Smith getting genuine insight from bloggers Guido Fawkes and Will Straw. (Meanwhile, the BBC was on the boat with Bruce Forsyth.) As stories of voting irregularities started to dominate proceedings in the absence of concrete results, ITV had YouTube footage of frustrated voting queues in Manchester. (Meanwhile, the BBC was on the boat with Joan Collins.)