Why Leicester City’s Win Should NOT Have Made the Top Slot on the Today Programme.
By Keren Haynes
Ok, I get why it merits blanket news coverage. It’s a David and Goliath story that puts a spring in your step, first day back at work after a bank holiday. Little Leicester, almost bankrupt, bailed out by the likes of Gary Lineker with a modest £30-million pound squad wins the Premier League – breaking the hold of the big boys and the very rich men behind them.
I can see why the other national broadcasters are leading on the story. Love it or loathe it football IS our national sport and the likes of Sky or ITN or Channel 5 select their stories with the broadest audience in mind. Broadcast news is as much about entertainment as it is about information so a story that lights the imagination is a sure audience winner. But Radio 4’s Today programme? Surely this is a travest
In a previous career, as a News Editor at ITN I would be settled at my desk at 05.59 coffee in hand, ready to start the day shift – and that shift would begin with the Today programme’s 06.00 bulletin. It’s true, the Today programme sets the news agenda for the day and heavily influences the stories other news outlets run in their programmes but that doesn’t mean to say news later on in the day should be a duplicate of Today’s running schedule. Really, what a dry world it would be if all broadcast outlets were copycats of each other.
Radio 4 has a different audience to Sky, ITN or others and I would argue I’m not the only listener who doesn’t want to hear about Leicester City’s win at the top of the bulletin. My expectation, as a Today listener of many years (and when I worked for the BBC’s business unit a reporter too) is that the stories the programme focuses on will be significant and will influence. Channel 4 News is a fine example of a broadcaster setting a different agenda. Look at ITN and the BBC’s News at Ten bulletins tonight and the chances are they will share the top 3 stories. On Channel 4 these stories are more likely to be mid-bulletin, probably part of the news belt and they’ll have found their own story for the top of the programme.
That’s not to say there isn’t a place for a light hearted story within the Today programme. Of course there is, it just isn’t at the top of the bulletin with all the additional in depth interviews and OBs that slot comes with. Personally I’d rather have heard more about the parents making their six year olds go on strike from school, in protest against the new SATs tests. I don’t have a 6 year old myself, so I’m not saying this from vested interest but the bigger issue of education, including when to start testing children is hugely significant to our society.
The Today programme enjoys stories that are quintessentially British – so the minnow small town rising against the giant cities is always going to appeal. The city of Leicester’s association with Richard III also helps add meat to the bones of the story.
Let’s look on the bright side though…..as a friend of mine, a life-long Leicester City fan, said: “It’s a damn sight more interesting than Zac Goldsmith!”, a sentiment I cannot disagree with!
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