Two suspiciously-similar articles appeared in the press this week, both grumbling that David Tennant was in too many BBC programmes at Christmas. One was in the Telegraph, and the other in the Mail. Both asserted that he appeared in 75 programmes.
To get to 75 appearances, they had to count over a period of three weeks. Now, I know Christmas starts earlier every year, but that seems a bit extravagant even by the Mail’s standards. Well over half of these appearances were Doctor Who (including the cartoon series) or other repeats; two of them were among the biggest-rated shows of the season (the two-part Doctor Who finale); and several others were news or documentary appearances as publicity for the finale. On that basis, the press will presumably be getting in a tizzy about the number of appearances by people in soap operas or the next time Britain’s Got Talent has its run.
The Mail article contained well below 500 words, plus a programme listing that could have been copied straight from the Radio Times. It took three journalists to write that. It contains several errors, which are helpfully explained to the Mail journalists in the many reader comments. They quoted two people from the many on their own comment boards to support the complaint about “overexposure”. Unfortunately, they selectively quoted one of those from a comment that was actually saying the complete opposite, and the original author had to correct them in the comments and reveal why she “really, really resented” their “pathetic” article. The Mail hasn’t apologised or corrected the published article.
This didn’t stop Conservative MP Nigel Evans complaining that this was evidence that the BBC was “freezing out young acting talent”, that the BBC should “name their big earners”, and that “200 channels of David Tennant doesn’t seem to be much choice.” He doesn’t explain how 75 appearances could make 200 channels, but fortunately he sat on the Culture Media and Sport select committee, and not one like the Treasury Select Committee that might require numeracy. Being a former committee member means he probably ought to recognise a non-sequitur, though. Note that he doesn’t sit on the committee any more — one of the errors that none of the three authors spotted in their article, possibly because they think retyping something is easier than checking the facts.
Speaking of which, moon-faced miserablist and Mail regular Jan Moir subsequently regurgitated the whole story in the paper, using the information in the article but conveniently ignoring all the corrections helpfully provided by readers of the previous article. She probably doesn’t think much of readers’ comments, after there was a record-breaking number of complaints to the UK Press Complaints Commission about her nasty article about the death of Stephen Gateley. Charlie Brooker described that fiasco rather better than I could, however – read his response here.
Other recent articles by the same Mail authors include:
- Ross: “Jonathan Ross angers BBC bosses after slamming television schedule”, another in the Mail’s continuing attacks on Ross, in which no BBC bosses are actually quoted (either on or off-record), the entire piece being based on a single tweet by Ross’s revealing his uncontroversial opinion that “BBC has shite on occasionally” compared with even worse on ITV.
- Pope: “Pope has a pointy hat”, a piece about Vatican dress code that speculates whether the papal headgear is an attempt to distance the Pope from his Nazi past, and featuring the comment “puts the Rat into Ratzinger” and a photo of an infallible condom featuring the Pontiff’s smiling face
- Rage: “’We want to wipe the smug grin from Simon Cowell’s face”, an article whose true Mail agenda is revealed by the website URL “BBC-backing-Rage-Against-The-Machine-sour-grapes-X-Factor-beating-Strictly-says-Simon-Cowell.html”
- Fat: “Dawn French uses a floral walking stick”, containing the breathless assessment “It is not known whether her injury was linked to her weight, however it is well-known that heavier people tend to have more problems with mobility”, and a series of quotes from a “Harley Street diet expert” lambasting the injured woman.
- Pug: “Kelly Brooks’ dog has a pink body warmer”, a feature piece containing photos of her, the dog and her rugby-player boyfriend, plus the words “amazing pert boobs”.
I made up one of those five stories — only four were written by those journalists. If you feel like doing a quick web search to work out which is the one I invented, then you’ll have worked harder on ascertaining the facts than the Mail journalists did on some of the facts in their David Tennant article.
PS: For the full effect, you need to imagine that I hand-wrote this blog post in full capitals on lined paper with green ink.
PPS: The Telegraph journalist has previously reported on MPs’ expenses, the war in Afghanistan, and the Jersey child abuse investigation. Must have been a slow news day for him, eh?