Foreign news 'starved as television feeds on trivia'

Jouvenal: angry about focus on trivia

Award-winning cameraman Peter Jouvenal has said a revolution in foreign television news is needed to stem what he calls the UK public’s  increasingly shallow and inaccurate view of world events.

Jouvenal, who was honoured by the Rory Peck Trust last week for his 20 years of work in conflict zones, said international news needs to find new outlets because broadcasters are turning their backs on in-depth coverage to focus on trivia.

He said newsgathering on the front line was being undermined by an obsession with 24-hour news, which chains journalists to satellite feed-points and prevents them from gathering new information and investigating leads.

Echoing comments made by Tina Brown last week, he said: "Correspondents can no longer go out and be a correspondents because someone in London wants to talk to them about the latest.

"So they tend to be confined to their hotel rooms, spend all their time logging onto the net and reading other journalists’ copy, and then they give you the impression that they are there with the latest. They could do exactly the same thing in London."

Jouvenal said an obsession with celebrities and sport had taken resources and attention away from stories that matter.

"I covered the war in Grozny and there were five journalists. Russia invades, hundreds of people killed, a city destroyed, an appalling war, and there were just five journalists.

"When I went with a friend of mine to Paris for the World Cup – something completely irrelevant – there were 5,000 journalists there.

"Commercial stations I don’t have such a problem with, but the BBC is getting taxpayers’ money and it has to allow the public to get information." Demoting Panorama to a late-night Sunday slot was "ridiculous", he argued.

"There should be a sports channel, or 100 sports channels if you like, but the BBC should not take money away from news and current affairs to pay for sports. The vast majority of the public don’t even know where Afghanistan or Iraq are. Fine, they can stay in ignorance. But one day if they wake up and want to find out, there should be a TV channel they can switch on to find out what is going on."

He said he hoped that advances in broadband technology would allow innovators to provide the public with in-depth, varied reports and to present it in a way that would appeal more to young people or those who do not currently watch the news. "There is lots of new equipment around. You can hide cameras on people and then instead of someone wearing a jacket and tie and waffling, you can talk to members of the public about what is going on."

By Mary Stevens

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