Should the BBC have supplied more clarity?

Over the last year, I have become increasingly irritated by journalists questioning of Government Ministers in particular on all the TV channels I watch.

Their demeanour often appears to change during such interviews, they regularly ask stupid questions, but then interrupt the answers. I’m convinced there is a monthly journalistic prize for whoever claims the greatest scalp as a result of their techniques!

But sadly, their continuous search for clarity from others is not always reflected in their own news reporting.

Take the outbreak of the South African strain which has filled our news feeds for the last few days.

On Tuesday, the BBC chose Woking as the location to report from and a concise explanation of Surrey County Council’s reaction to the outbreak was provided by the Council Leader, which includes the letterboxing of testing kits to a defined area.

Back in the studio, at no point during several different news reports I watched, did the BBC even suggest to their viewers, particularly those in the affected areas, that the report only related to Woking and that the procedure just reported on may not necessarily apply to other affected areas. And going even further, perhaps also suggest they seek guidance (or clarity!) from their local Councils.

During the lunchtime news that day, the reporter at Woking even said Herefordshire rather than Hertfordshire!

I know for a fact in Broxbourne, where the affected postcode districts are a mile away from where I type, the Council followed a different procedure. But Broxbourne residents watching the BBC could have been forgiven for expecting a testing kit to land on their doormats imminently.

Late Friday January 29th, TLC was approached to manage an urgent leaflet drop to start Tuesday February 2nd in the EN10 postcode by Broxbourne Council working in tandem, with Hertfordshire County Council.

Over the weekend, the nature of the enquiry changed several times, letterboxing testing kits was considered, but in the end a three page letter enclosed within a C5 envelope personalised to residents in EN10 was agreed. Top marks to Broxbourne and HCC who delivered the 7,500 required to me at home at 5.00pm on Monday 1st and to the team who collected them from me at an unearthly hour on the Tuesday!

With envelopes flying through letterboxes from early in the day, concerned residents will have been informed of how Broxbourne & Herts Councils were tackling the problem (differently to Woking) – with Thursday 4th  seeing public health or licenced officers in high viz uniforms and with valid ID starting to deliver testing kits, though residents have also been able to collect kits from central locations in the postcodes from Tuesday.

So door drop has played a vital role in communicating this information to residents over a very serious matter and TLC is proud to have played a role in the communications strategy.

I’m sure other affected localities will each have their own solutions created to best manage the expectations of their residents, but that has not been emphasised by the BBC.

I just think the BBC and other channels have the responsibility to accurately report the facts, as they did for Woking, but equally suggest to viewers that may not be the status quo everywhere. Perhaps on occasions they do, but on what is a potentially frightening development as we all clamour for an end to lockdown and restrictions, the clarity was on this occasion for sure, sadly missing in my opinion.

Graham Dodd, Managing Director