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Our Crack Tongue & Groove

commentAlexPorteous.jpg Ronnie! Off the news!

Remember when The News just reported the news, says Robert Meddes.

I enjoy watching the Six O’Clock news. Like sharing chit-chat with the bloke in the local paper shop, and arguing with the cat, it’s one of the few constants in my life, part of the daily routine that crowds out scary thoughts about the forlorn rags of growing old, or how Citizen Khan was ever commissioned for a second series.

But the Six O’Clock news, and indeed any news bulletin these days, is increasingly becoming unwatchable because the producers insist on canvassing the opinions of Ronnie from Basingstoke.

There will be an item, say, on the rise in gas prices, or care homes, and after giving us the facts (“British Grasp are putting their prices up by 9.2%”, “A private care home in Leicester has been closed because of gross negligence”) Ronnie from Basingstoke will be stopped in the street, with weary inevitability, and asked to give a snap opinion on the matter in hand. Naturally, it’s not always the same Ronnie from Basingstoke. Sometimes it’s someone with a pushchair, sometimes it’s someone leaning out of a car window, sometimes it’s a mutant-like figure wiping pastry flakes from the corner of their mouth. In short: it’s a member of the general public. Now I’m all for letting people have their say, but a news programme should not be the platform for their off-the-cuff remarks. Their views are not news. The clue is in the word: views. And by allocating airtime to such views TV companies are giving them an unwarranted about of weight; handing a megaphone to people in the hope that they’re going to come across as the voice of the masses, when, in actual fact, they are merely the voice of Ronnie from Basingstoke. Needless to say, and in the name of balance, if Ronnie nails his flag to one particular mast, then producers are inclined to find out a Billy from Frinton who’ll take the opposite view. Fair enough, you may think, but this 50/50 polarisation gives the impression that the country is entirely split down the middle on any given matter, which is not usually the case. (“The government are thinking about bringing back witch-burning, what do you reckon?” Ronnie: “Ludicrous”; Billy: “About time too”; Stupid Viewer: “The country is hopelessly divided on this issue; maybe it IS about time we torched those muthas…”) No: the general public should only ever be let loose on the news if they agree to be cross examined by Jeremy Paxman: “So Ronnie, you’d like to see better schools, more police on the beat, better hospitals, better roads and cheaper fuel, but you’d like to pay no tax?” - “Yes, that’s right Jeremy” - “You’re an absolute arsehole aren’t you, Ronnie?”