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Anorak | Martin Bell On Necro News And Madeleine McCann

Martin Bell On Necro News And Madeleine McCann

by | 4th, February 2008

MARIN Bell is a former television war correspondent and politician. He has this to say about the current state of TV news reporting:

Foreign news is expensive and dangerous. So in many cases newspapers and TV networks have abandoned it, retreating into a comfort zone of celebrity stories, consumer news, sport, health-scares and crime. Especially crime. In the last 10 years or so, a particular category has been climbing up the news agenda to a dominant position. I call these stories “necro-news”.

They are about the victimisation of girls and young women. The death or disappearance of anyone from a toddler to a princess is the signal for a media obsession with these stories to the virtual exclusion of all others. The coverage is mawkish, exploitative and highly speculative.

We saw this with the deaths of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham, with the Ipswich murders in December 2006 and most conspicuously with the abduction of Madeleine McCann in Portugal in May last year.

The BBC now accepts, I believe, that it was wrong to give the story the wall-to-wall prominence that it did, or to send its leading anchors to Portugal to front the coverage. But it still found space for a Madeleine story in its first 10 O’Clock News, going head-to-head with ITN’s revamped News At Ten. Both programmes were awash with necro-news.

This “murder porn” news is cheap. It competes for an audience among those who watch TV news. Not everyone does. Many get their news via the internet, or have no interest in it…

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