What I wrote at Lib Dem Voice

May 24, 2007

Channel 4 - what a load of rubbish

This isn’t yet another post about fortnightly alternate weekly waste collections. Honest. However, I accidentally found myself tonight watching Channel 4’s Dispatches programme, ‘Bin Wars’, in which Oxford heavily featured.

Regardless of your views - whether you think 160+ councils have taken leave of their senses, or that increased recycling rates are well worth the extra effort - what struck me most (on today of all days) was the programme’s polemical style. I recall Dispatches being a programme which took an objective and balanced view of the issues it put under the microscope, dealing with them sensibly and soberly.

Not any more. This was shoddy, shoddy journalism - so bad it could almost have been on ITV.

C4 will doubtless defend the show’s balance on the grounds that both sides had their say. True, kind of. But what you in fact got was a handful of residents opposed to the scheme, counterpointed with a Council official (or councillor) putting their perspective.

The C4 agenda was clear: this was a programme about politicians versus the people.

And yet - as the local newspaper, the Oxford Mail, has discovered - knock on people’s doors in this city and the vast majority of residents are quite content with our 'recycling revolution'. But was their view represented by C4? No.

I’m very happy to go round my Headington ward with a Dispatches film crew and talk directly to my residents about the scheme, and let C4 hear it for themselves. But, then, as evidenced by Ofcom today, could I really trust C4 to edit the programme properly?

This once-proud not-for-profit's factual programming is rapidly becoming The Independent of television - fun to flick through, but would you really trust it to present the facts, rather than filter them?

Much more of this, and they’ll have me thinking the BBC poll tax licence fee is a good idea.


Joe Taylor said...

I thought the gratuitous use of shots of piles of bin bags was a bit much - never mind the stock footage of rats and maggots... is every street in Oxford like that? ;-)

Neil Walton said...

Thankfully, every street in Oxford is not like that, indeed the shots all seemed to be in one part of Oxford and rarely went anywhere else.
If Dispatches had been a bit more even handed they could have gone a short way north into Cherwell District which has had bi-weekly collections for 3 years now and one of the highest recycling rates in the country according to the council.
Or they could have gone a little bit to the east or south into Vale of the White Horse which has been recycling for over 10 years and has a one of the lowest waste collection rates in Oxfordshire, maybe the country.

Neil Walton said...

With regards to Dispatches, I think that they are just following the trend as Panorama has a similar style. Horizon is not as good as it used to be. I cannot remember the last time there was an Equinox on C4 so its probably been canned. There seems to be a dearth of serious documentary making or in depth TV journalism.

Bryan Mcgrath said...

I'm sorry you're blaming the messenger just 'cos you don't like the message.

We have bought a house in Leicester for No2 daughter who is studying at the Uni there. I was quite put off by the street after street where the wheelie bin is a permanent feature just outside the front door. Fortunately we managed to buy a place with a small front garden, at much use at all, plus a usable back garden complete with a collection of recycle boxes and 2 compost bins. The lib dems hung on in her ward, strangely Labour returned in force in the 'poorer wards'

Stephen Tall said...

That's not what I'm saying at all, Bryan. I am saying that C4 *only* showing residents who oppose the scheme is unrepresentative.

These schemes differ from area to area. The Oxford version learned from the mistakes made in other areas (partly cos the Lib Dems here took time to consult properly) - that's why it's popular with most residents here, though I completely accept not universally acclaimed!

Bishop Hill said...


In the comments to an earlier piece of yours on the subject of recycling you said that the evidence you had seen suggested that recycling did, in fact, make economic (and therefore environmental) sense.

I've been struggling to find anything on the web that would support a view either way. What is the evidence that you've seen?

Jock Coats said...

The whole thing was all the more bizarre, because it eventually concluded that yes, it probably was all worth the effort because we simply had to do something. Anyone supporting pay as your throw would have been pleased if they only saw the last two minutes of the program for example.

Nathaniel Tapley said...

Ah - another of your satirical posts, in which you pretend not to understand the media. Excellent.

I particularly liked the way you elided the differences between a documentary, a documentary strand and an entire channel. Particularly funny was the bit where you suggested that Channel 4 has an editorial policy on rubbish collections.

Rather than take issue with a documentary your Pooterish comic alter-ego decides that the lumbering behemoth of Channel 4 is against him. It's really very clever.

I thought it would have been more effective if you posted this after "The Great Global Warming Swindle", "Brown: Fit For Office" or "The Doomsday Code", and suggested that C4 is, rather than airing documentaries, a global-warming denier, a hater of Gordon Brown or slightly paranoid about people who believe in end-times.

Anyway, this is another fine addition to the misadventures of 'Stephen Tall'. I await the next episode breathlessly.

Author! Author!

Anonymous said...

'I'm happy to go round Headington........& talk to my residents'

Wow,how pompous can you get ?

Stephen Tall said...

Well, I guess if you miss out half the sentence, virtually any quote can be distorted into pomposity.

Still, perhaps better pompous than cowardly, eh, Anonymous?

Anonymous said...

That deputy mayor crap is obviously going to your head,hope you are still going to look after 'your' residents.
It obviously makes you feel important!

David Rundle said...

Not 'his' alone, Ms. Anon.