It'll never fly: 24hr news channels

When the day's crucial events can be summed up in a 30-minute bulletin, do we need a constant drip-feed of news? There just isn't that much happening.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Since the advent of multi-channel TV, rolling news stations have been desperately flogging a dead mule, while doing everything to convince us it's a thoroughbred horse. How can Princess Diana's choice of contraception be considered breaking news? Especially more than 10 years after her death. Despite the relative paucity of action, BBC News 24 averaged 6.6 million viewers a week last year and Sky News 4.3 million. Meanwhile, profits at Ted Turner's pioneering CNN were estimated at $337m. Sky Digital offers 17 news channels, all reporting the same stuff, and in largely the same way, with journeyman newsreaders, and hordes of hacks descending on locations that have all the excitement of a car-boot sale. But when the proverbial does hit the fan, 24-hour stations certainly have the muscle. In 1992, the 'CNN effect' apparently pressured the US administration to intervene in Somalia, after the channel had shown constant footage of starving children. Ironically, the Americans later withdrew after CNN screened footage of Somalis dragging a dead US soldier through the streets. Events are usually far less alarming, but the tension never drops. Sky Sports News' Soccer Saturday consists of Jeff Stelling screaming out frantic updates amid a torrent of data as if his life depended on it. Exeter have a late winner at Crawley Town! Whoever said TV had lost its drama?

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