Sunday, 20 December 2009

The Express has anger and truth issues

Here's yet another stunning front page from a Richard Desmond paper.

Free stuff, Strictly Come Dancing and a news story with no evident news value.

Christmas TV Chaos: Fury as the freezing weather knocks out favourite channels is billed as an 'exclusive' and reveals:

Millions of digital viewers are having to retune their televisions, some of them daily, as the Arctic weather causes channels to break up or disappear. Angry viewers have deluged the BBC and Freeview with complaints as they suffer interference caused by high pressure accompanying the cold snap and snow.

Even if that were true, it's a pathetic thing to stick on the front page. But is it true?

The story continues:

As the icy conditions challenged digital providers, it emerged some homes 90 miles from Wales have been receiving Welsh language shows.

The second bit of that is true. It was reported a few days ago that there had been a problem of overlapping signals - but this was to do with the switchover process in general and was not related to the weather at all.

And, as usual, deep in the story, there's something which explains as much:

Digital UK, which is charged with rolling out the switchover, denied there was a problem: “We are not aware of any unusual issues regarding bad weather affecting digital signals.” However, the company has acknowledged a problem with “overlapping signals” following the switchover in the North-west and South-west after it received 6,000 complaints.

So a story about problems of overlapping signals which was reported by the BBC and Mail on Thursday and Friday last week, is turned into a front page Sunday Express article and padded out with a bit of irrelevant weather news to add a topical angle, just so we don't think the paper has cribbed it from other sources and reheated it several days later...

But quite apart from the fact the 'story' is crap, there is something so wearying about the language the Express uses, particularly 'fury' and 'chaos' which both appear on the front page. This is a story about some people not having all the television channels they want - 'annoyed' about an 'inconvenience' might be more appropriate than 'fury' about 'chaos'.

(A similar ridiculous over-reaction was reported in the Independent over the CBS adverts starring Frosty the Snowman, over-dubbed with dialogue from How I Met Your Mother. A Fox News commentator, John Tantillo, said after seeing the ads that he had 'never been as appalled, outraged and saddened.' Yes, apparently, 9/11 'appalled, outraged and saddened' him less than an animated snowman saying rude things.)

But what else has the Express newspapers said people are in a 'fury' about recently?

Union fury at cabin crew militants, Fury over Guy Ritchie's 'noisy' A-list pub, Investor fury over punch bonuses, Ministers faced fury last night after it was revealed Labour’s welfare benefits bonanza costs the average working household almost £1,000 a year, Hughes vents Clattenburg fury and Tiger Woods' wife's fury over sex in marital bed.

Goldman Sachs has scrapped cash bonuses for its top 30 executives this year amid public fury on both sides of the Atlantic..., Jack Straw sparked fury yesterday..., Northern Rock shareholders reacted with fury..., Licence fee payers reacted with fury last night after it was revealed this year’s Christmas television schedule will feature almost 600 hours of repeats...

Fury over 'secret' auction of Queen Mother's letters, Hell hath no fury like a woman transgressed, and Mitchells and Butlers shareholder 'takeover' fury.

And that's just since the start of December. That's a lot of 'fury' dreamed up by the Express.

In fact:

And what about 'chaos'? With the snow of the last few days there has been plenty. Apparently.

Snow causes Christmas TV chaos, Eurostar cancels service amid chaos, Martin O'Neill criticises Aston Villa fixture chaos, Chaos in snow and more on the way, Warning over travel chaos following heavy snowfall, Commuters were facing chaos travelling to and from work today..., Road chaos for holiday drivers, Passengers using the rail service, which connects London to Paris and Brussels, face travel chaos, Heavy snow sparks transport chaos as icy blast grips Britain, Britain braces itself for winter weather chaos.

And, before the snow:

Travel chaos ahead as 8in of snow to sweep Britain, Midwife chaos led to death, Crunch climate talks in Copenhagen were in chaos last night..., South Africa: World Cup chaos, America blamed for chaos post-war (surely 'post-war chaos'?), and Homes and businesses face telephone chaos when new dialling codes are introduced.

Also, all since the start of December.

In fact, there's even more 'chaos' on the Express website than 'fury':

Don't they realise that constantly over-stating these things makes them entirely ineffective, like the boy who cried wolf? Can't someone buy them a thesaurus for Christmas?

It's just poor and lazy journalism and it makes them look hysterical. But that's hardly surprising for the Express.


  1. It's only poor and lazy journalism if you asume that journalism is what they're selling, rather than daily opportunities for volcanic indignation and foaming self-righteousness.

    Word Verification: blessnes, a quality of Christmas as enunciated by a priest who's overdone it a bit on the choirboy front.

  2. What exhausting lives they must lead, with all that non-stop fury and chaos.

  3. The other thing about the "overlapping channels" story is that they could all *still receive* their own regional channels, its just that they got the Welsh ones as well, and therefore some peoples' EPG positions were incorrect.

    On many set top-boxes you can reorder the EPG and on virtually all of them you can add your own favourities - however this was deemed "too confusing" by those who complained and by an aerial installer on Radio 4's "You and Yours" whose brilliant (<- sarcasm) advice was to force a manual retune, but the turn the box off three quarters of the way through, then "hopefully it won't pick up the Welsh channels."

    There are plenty of legitimate Freeview complaints such as the shared channel operating hours, picture quality, the loss of BBC interactive channels for HD services and so on, so to complain about getting S4C when you don't need it is just silly.

  4. It's a shame the Express and the Mail aren't real people, for they surely would have kicked the bucket from all that hypertension by now if they were.

  5. Ah yes, I knew there was a reason I stopped reading the Daily/Sunday Express. A paper totally devoid of proper journalism.

  6. It just goes to show, you can't be too careful.


Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

Comments are moderated - generally to filter out spam and comments wishing death on people - but other messages will be approved as quickly as possible.