The more things change...

 by Martin Belam, 7 December 2004

I hate the days when the BBC becomes the news rather than reports the news - and today has been one of them:

BBC Boss Swings the Axe On Jobs

screamed the headline of tonight's Evening Standard, which was obviously a comfort as I trudged away from a very long day at Bush House.

Still it is nice to know that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Today's announcement from Director-General Mark Thompson was made on what we call the "ringmain" - an internal television network used for this kind of event. However, when I arrived at my office this morning, before the nice title slide was in place, I discovered that we still use "the girl and the clown test card" internally.

The old-fashioned girl and clown Test Card on display in Bush House

With the advent of 24/7 television I know there is a whole generation who never grew up with the experience of staring disconsolately at this image realising that in a three channel world there was nothing on one of the channels to watch. That meant a third of the television available to us was 'off'.

BBC Test Card F

So iconic was this image that there is even a BBC News Online article about the death of George Hersee - the engineer who ended up making his daughter Carole Hersee the unwitting star of "Test Card F"


I understand why the bbc, and you, are interested in this, but I do think there was a disproportionate amount of coverage of this story... I note that also, today, that Colgate Palmolive are cutting 4000 jobs, yet the BBC news warrants a comment page on the BBC news site, full headlines, and the Colgate story, about 30 seconds on the 6pm news. What is the quantative difference?

I can't speak for people anywhere else in the BBC, but the Evening Standard changed the front page on the earlier editions from something like "Black Tuesday for jobs in London" which wrapped the BBC story in with some other job losses within the city, to BBC specific front pages like "Here's the bad news from the Beeb" and the "swings the axe" headline quoted in my post above.

I guess the fact that the BBC is funded by the public and that anyone with a Television Licence is a "shareholder" could be one reason why it got so much coverage.

Another reason could well be because media types, whether within the BBC or not, like to write about 'the media' and treat it as maybe more important than it is.

Tricky news indeed. But on another note, there's some good test card stuff here

"With the advent of 24/7 television I know there is a whole generation who never grew up with the experience of staring disconsolately at this image..."

Nah, you still see the testcard sometimes. Not often though. You certainly still get Pages from Ceefax!

Er, I think you'll find that the test card is moving to Manchester. Either that, or it's being outsourced.

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