Monday, 14 March 2011

The Japan Earthquake

Last Friday, one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded hit Japan. And following the tremor a devastating Tsunami wave hit the coast causing widespread destruction and loss of life.

But you knew all that; there's no escaping news of the tragedy. This morning's airwaves are filled with the latest details: another explosion at the Fukushima nuclear power station; two thousand bodies washed ashore on the north coast; widespread water, food and fuel shortages. Thanks to satellite communication, shared broadcasting facilities and resident reporters, we've been kept up-to-date with events as they happen. What need, then, for the BBC (and, for all I know, other UK broadcasters) to spend the weekend flying James Naughtie of the Today programme out to Sendai - one of the worst-hit cities - as well as adding Nick Ravenscroft, Andrew Hosken and a host of other reporters to the mix? I assume these people won't be starving while they're out there. And I assume they'll be using some of that scarce fuel for their vehicles, to say nothing of precious electricity supplies that the Japanese national grid is having to ration to the rest of the nation.

It's the same whenever disaster strikes. Not content with letting the resident journalists tell the story, we have to have a 'live' BBC News anchor presenting the programme from the latest trouble spot, as if that's what it takes to tell the story. Which, of course, is nonsense. We're kept perfectly well informed without the reckless policy of sending out the 'heavies' to report live from the scene. Worse, at a time when the people of Japan need all the help they can get, when the Today programme website itself tells us that, 'Japan is struggling to cope with the devastation caused by Friday's earthquake and resulting tsunami,' and when its government is facing the biggest national emergency since World War 2, I don't want to be paying (via the license fee) to fly Jim Naughtie - or anyone else - out there to use up some of their precious resources of fuel and food. Of course the story needs telling, the broadcasters will say. But they were doing that anyway, and instantly, without the help of the heavies.

The irony is that half of Jim Naughtie's job this morning has been announcing - live, on the line from Japan - items that have nothing to do with the earthquake or anything connected to it. And the ultimate demonstration of this foolishness was when he interviewed - from Sendai - the Japanese ambassador to Britain who was, of course, in London. Which is where Jim should've been.

Next time, stay at home, Jim. And give the money that you'll save to the Japanese Shelter Box Appeal.

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