Media in the Press 22.11.10

Matthew Nelson casts his eye over the media stories making it into the pages of today’s papers…..

Long-running BBC Radio 4 show, The Archers, has been accused of 'racial stereotyping' over the portrayal of its only Scottish character as a lazy drunk. The Scottish Sun picks up the story on page 7 with the headline, ‘Archers Race Row’. Their reporter writes: “Jack ‘Jazzer’ McCreary is known for drinking, stealing and womanising in the fictional English village of Ambridge.”

According to the report, one Scots listener complained to Radio 4 that McCreary was a “shocking case of an untruthful stereotype”. Another Scottish follower of the show is quoted, saying that the Archers were “quite happy to stereotype an entire race”.

Archers scriptwriter, Keri Davies, is quoted, saying: “One character cannot possibly be expected to represent the whole nation.”

Staying with the BBC, a new drama, due to be aired tonight, portraying bulling among British troops in Afghanistan has been criticised by the head of the army in a letter written to the BBC. The Scotsman, page 6, picks up the story with the headline, ‘Army Anger at BBC ‘Bully’ Drama’. Writes reporter, Raf Sanchez: “Sir Peter Wall, the Chief of the General Staff, wrote to BBC director-general Mark Thompson to express his dismay over Accused, a BBC drama that depicts a young soldier being brutalised before he takes his own life.”

A spokesman for the army is quoted, saying: “The view of the Chief of the General Staff is that the programme is deeply offensive to all those serving. There is a fear that those watching will believe this is really happening to their loved ones. We have asked the BBC to make it clear that this is a fictitious programme, is not accurate and that the army has nothing to do with it.”

A BBC spokeswoman confirmed that director-general, Mark Thompson, had responded to the letter, but that the reply would not be released. The programme, due to air at 9pm tonight on BBC1, was also defended by the broadcaster. The spokeswoman is quoted, saying: “In promotion of this new drama series by award-winning writer Jimmy McGovern, it has been made clear that Accused is a work of fiction. It is in no way an attempt to denigrate the servicemen and women of the British army.”

And, rounding off a bad day for the BBC, another story appears in today’s Scottish Sun (page 29) with a fresh controversy for the broadcaster. BBC Radio Devon host, Judi Spiers, has had to apologise on air after suggesting that Chinese people eat cats. The article reports that the gaffe came during an item about a book on a travelling cat that has been translated into Chinese. Spiers is reported to have said: “I don’t know if they’ll enjoy that, don’t they eat cats?” A BBC spokesperson is quoted, saying: “Judi meant no offence.”

Meanwhile, in today’s Media Guardian (page 7), Tim Berner’s-Lee, the man widely credited with inventing the world wide web, has said that journalists are going to have to get better at analysing data if they want to break scoops in the future. Berner’s-Lee is quoted, saying: “Journalists need to be data savvy. It used to be that you would get stories by chatting to people in bars, and it still might be that you’ll do it that way sometimes. But now it’s going to be about pouring over data and equipping yourself with the tools to analyse it and picking up what’s interesting.”

Elsewhere in the Media Guardian (page 1), media dealings with the royal family have changed a great deal over the years – exemplified by the news of Prince Willam’s engagement last week. Writes Stephen Brook: “The photocall ofWilliam and Kate last week proved that the royal family has changed beyond all recognition from their stiff dealings with the media two decades ago. Reporters were given the privilege of an off-the-record meet and greet with the couple over a cup of tea.”

An anonymous Fleet Street veteran is quoted, saying: “That would never have happened 20 years ago with Charles. Here’s a man who pretty much blames the media for killing his mum – yet he gets it.”

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