Large parts of the UK have been deluged with camera crews and news reporters under some of the heaviest reporting conditions for almost forty years.
An unusually high level of snowfall has prompted news networks to react with a sudden flurry of intense coverage with areas of southern central England said to be 40cm deep in clichés such as ‘it’s like an ice-rink’ or ‘a little drop of snow and the whole country grinds to a halt’.
Many schools have been forced to close after lessons were disrupted by continual requests for interviews with parents and teachers. Railway stations and airports are also struggling to cope with secondary crews doing ‘pick up’ shots and filming disgruntled commuters.
Parts of the A3 were blocked overnight by radio cars and outside broadcast vehicles, while several people who had braved the snow had to be rushed to hospital after being crushed by swarms of reporters keen to get their reaction to the cold weather. It is suggested that almost 44% of people had chosen to stay at home rather than risk being door-stepped by someone with a microphone.
In Scotland, a local ski resort had to be closed after crews from the BBC, ITN, SKY and even CNN arrived hoping to shoot an offbeat segment intended to show that some people were actually enjoying the inclement weather. The problem has been exacerbated by the large number of local and regional networks sending their own reporters to the scene. In some of the worst hit areas, newsreaders have been reduced to interviewing their own correspondents, asking them what it’s like to be stood out in the middle of nowhere in freezing conditions.
However, despite the heavy news presence, coverage has remained patchy. ITN is predicting apocalyptic polar conditions lasting till March; BBC News has adopted the tone of a slightly irritated pensioner and Sky News has promised to maintain round-the-clock aerial coverage despite having already lost two helicopters.
To make matters worse, local councils are said to be running seriously low on gritty news with the emphasis on getting to the busiest areas where large groups of news crews have drifted. There is a chance that armed forces units and fire services will also be deployed to provide at least some visual interest.
A spokesperson for BBC News 24 said, ‘In these hazardous conditions we are urging people to leave the house, if only to abandon their car or fall over in an amusing and illustrative manner. We desperately need more stuff to film.’
7th January 2010