Channel 4 – what a load of rubbish

by Stephen Tall on May 24, 2007

This isn’t yet another post about fortnightly alternate weekly waste collections. Honest. However, I accidentally found myself tonight watching Channel 4’s Dispatches programme, ‘Bin Wars’, in which Oxford heavily featured.

Regardless of your views – whether you think 160+ councils have taken leave of their senses, or that increased recycling rates are well worth the extra effort – what struck me most (on today of all days) was the programme’s polemical style. I recall Dispatches being a programme which took an objective and balanced view of the issues it put under the microscope, dealing with them sensibly and soberly.

Not any more. This was shoddy, shoddy journalism – so bad it could almost have been on ITV.

C4 will doubtless defend the show’s balance on the grounds that both sides had their say. True, kind of. But what you in fact got was a handful of residents opposed to the scheme, counterpointed with a Council official (or councillor) putting their perspective.

The C4 agenda was clear: this was a programme about politicians versus the people.

And yet – as the local newspaper, the Oxford Mail, has discovered – knock on people’s doors in this city and the vast majority of residents are quite content with our ‘recycling revolution’. But was their view represented by C4? No.

I’m very happy to go round my Headington ward with a Dispatches film crew and talk directly to my residents about the scheme, and let C4 hear it for themselves. But, then, as evidenced by Ofcom today, could I really trust C4 to edit the programme properly?

This once-proud not-for-profit’s factual programming is rapidly becoming The Independent of television – fun to flick through, but would you really trust it to present the facts, rather than filter them?

Much more of this, and they’ll have me thinking the BBC poll tax licence fee is a good idea.