Cutaways banned

In the UK there have been a series of TV scandals. Scandals that pundits say have ‘eroded the public trust in television.’ These scandals range from people entering phone in competitions on premium-rate telephone numbers with no chance of winning to a documentary about Alzheimer’s that implied that the subject had died on camera when they went into a coma that lead to their death three days later.

The latest kneejerk reaction has been that a UK TV channel has banned the use of a majority of the cutaways regularly used in TV news.

At the moment news programmes are peppered with what Five’s news editor David Kermode describes as “rather hackneyed tricks”. He’s referring to interviewer ‘noddies’ and question asking shots that are recorded after the interviewee has left the scene. He also is banning the generic silent shots of interviewees walking down corridors and walking into offices. These are the shots that reporters usually add a voiceover to to provide story context. Kermode calls these “contrived”.

He said viewers “have a pretty good grasp of what an ‘edit’ is, so I think the time has come to be honest about signposting when we edit our interviews”. That shows that he doesn’t understand the need for storytelling techniques in communication.

This ban is supposed to restore viewers’ trust in TV news… However I’d be surprised if any viewers have noticed any of these ‘tricks’. They’ll notice interviews made up of interviewee shots crossfading from clip to clip.

It’s surprising that the general public’s trust in British TV has lasted this far into the 21st century. I think that TV companies should forget about trying to regain that trust with empty gestures and get on with making good TV.

The BBC’s Newsnight show is asking viewers whether this ban is a good idea. There’s a good set of responses to that question on their website.

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