BBC BLOGS - The Editors
« Previous | Main | Next »

Painful memories

Tim McCoy | 12:37 UK time, Tuesday, 7 August 2007

When we heard about the outbreak of foot and mouth on Friday evening, it was clearly going to be big news - most of us vividly remember reporting the devastation and suffering caused by the disease in 2001.

BBC News 24 logoIn the early stages of breaking news, when camera crews are heading to the scene, we relied in part on a lot of phone and studio interviews to tell the story. And producers dug out library pictures of the 2001 outbreak to play during these interviews.

The trouble was, even though they were labelled as library pictures, their repetitive use began to annoy some parts of the audience and they told us. Some thought they were distressing. Some thought they created the impression that 2007 would be a repeat performance of the last time around.

It's an easy trap for us to fall into - after all we're television and we use pictures to tell stories. But in this case you told us that we're weren't thinking carefully enough about the effect these pictures were having.

Of course they do have a place in the unfolding story and we shouldn't blank out the painful memories. So to those who were annoyed, I'm sorry, but we did listen and on Saturday we took steps to limit the use of the library footage to very specific examples.


  • 1.
  • At 05:21 PM on 07 Aug 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

To a great extent, people make their own problems in life and it is hard to feel sympathy when it is the result of vindictiveness, carelessness, and sheer stupidity, not to mention irrational hatred and jealousy. This is an example. European agribusiness has been extremely aggressive in preventing importation of the products of American agribusiness against which it does not compete well. It spewed a litany of lies saying that American beef was tainted due to the use of hormones and antiboitics while American produce was dangerous due to the use of genetically modified strains of crops. The intent was to frighten Europeans into rejecting the very food Americans eat every day (Europeans eat it when they visit the US so it hasn't stopped anyone who comes here on business or vacation, ever consider that.) To have heard European "experts" tell it, all of us in the US should be dead or dying by now from being poisoned by our food. It was so agressive that some in the EU warned Zambia during a famine that if they accepted donations of American grain, Europe would not allow exportation of their agricultural products to the EU. What was America supposed to do, donate money to buy European food to feed starving Zambians when it had vast surplusses of the food its own people eat every day it was willing to donate? What were the Zambians supposed to do, starve? Where were the comparable donations from the EU to replace what America would have given.

It is in this vein that while the danger of American farms is largely a myth with a few instances of exception citable, the EU has managed to infect entire national herds of cattle, sheep, and hogs (Brits call them pigs) with not just hoof and mouth disease (which Brits call foot and mouth disease) but mad cow disease as well. Considering how contageous hoof and mouth disease is and that it is impossible to geographically isolate a research laboratory which studies it due to Britain's limited size, you'd think the most extraordinary measures would be taken to see to it that no possible contamination could occur from an escape of the infectious agent. Yet it appears that is precisely what has happened putting Britain's entire herd of cattle once again at risk. What do you call people who do not learn from their mistakes?

I for one am glad of the trade war. The last I heard, there has not been a recorded case of hoof and mouth disease in the US for around 80 years and the one case of mad cow disease several years ago was quickly discovered and was traced to a cow purchased from a herd in Canada. I feel safer knowing my meat comes from domestic sources.

  • 2.
  • At 05:46 PM on 07 Aug 2007,
  • Mark Morton wrote:

But like you say, you're television, and you have to show something. Just out of interest, what did you show when the story was breaking in 2001? Footage of 1967?

  • 3.
  • At 02:25 PM on 08 Aug 2007,
  • Ged wrote:

Get cameramen out getting up to date footage - what is the point of showing footage that does not directly relate to the story being relayed to the viewer? Cost savings are one means of justifying showing library footage, however there may be more sensationalism in the depths of the video vaults than can be mustered up filming a story in its' infancy.

  • 4.
  • At 02:55 PM on 08 Aug 2007,
  • Keith wrote:

The endless use of "Library" footage to desperately try and fill the screen with something, anything - a definition of 24 hour news, and why most of us never watch it.

This post is closed to new comments.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.