A Passive Rant

Last night at the Albert Hall, a concert by the Israel Philharmonic was disrupted by a pro-Palestinian demonstration. (A report on that here.) The rights and wrongs of that are worth discussing, although I’m not going to right now. My beef is the BBC’s reporting, or lack thereof.

All the proms are broadcast live – that’s part of the joy. Last night, listening on Radio 3 as usual, I suddenly heard shouting, then some yelling ‘Shame’, others ‘Out’. What was going on? Well, your guess was as good as mine last night, for Radio 3 after a mumbled sentence about ‘disruption’ cut away to a recording. Then they returned us for the ‘interval’ of a concert that never was, only for more shouting at the beginning of the second half to bring more mumbles of ‘disruption’ and another recording.

This morning, R3’s newscaster said that the broadcast ‘was forced’ off the air. This is where my hackles rise. ‘Was forced’, by whom, oh great BBC? Who forced you? Did demonstrators storm the recording booth and physically make you pull the broadcast? I don’t think so. The broadcasters made a poor decision last night, forgetting that the BBC is (we had thought) a news organization, and zipping into ‘control’ mode by not reporting on what was happening in front of their noses.

One could say that poor decision was spur of the moment, made on the hoof; it was wrong, but someone had to decide fast. But that was more than twelve hours ago. This morning, ‘was forced’ is a weasel way of saying, ‘Nothing to do with us, guv. The decision was imposed on us.’

When I was at school, I was always told to watch out for the passive voice: someone is hiding something. (‘The Battle of Hastings was fought in 1066’ probably means the writer of the sentence has no idea who fought the Battle of Hastings.) The broadcast ‘was forced’ off the air is hiding the fact that the BBC did not do its job.

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  1. chris hughes

    September 2, 2011 - 12:11 pm

    This would make a perfect example of the ‘history written by the victors’ theory, wouldn’t it? Full of bias, and judgmental, a classic of how you can use language to skew an account of an event. Should be included in syllabuses, I think!

  2. elle flanders

    September 2, 2011 - 1:26 pm

    and so is the story with ‘the media’ today. much media is prepared long in advance and most reporters wouldn’t know what to do on the spur of the moment if they don’t get the nod from their producers….’can we say this’? If you want to know what happened, check out YOUTUBE and TWITTER. that’s where the news is. BBC—boring, boring and crap.