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Tuesday 24 January 2012

Keeping It Real.

Maybe i'm just getting a little pedantic in my old age, or maybe i just get some kind of perverse pleasure out of it, i don't know? But, one of those things that bugs me these days are errors that i notice in tv programs and news reports.

The worst offenders, for me at least, are programs, or news reports, that feature the railway system in the UK.

I'd like a pound for every train that i've seen going backwards, but is actually shown as going forwards. For every train that is meant to be from one Train Operating Company, but is actually from another. And for every train that is stated, or suggested, as being in at a certain location, but is actually somewhere else.

Of course, having worked on the railway for very nearly 36 years has a considerable bearing on this. But, i'm sure that people from any walk of life can spot similar errors in areas that they are aquainted with?

I have a feeling that nobody can help themselves when they see a blatant error pop up on their tv screen? They immediately sit up in their chair and start shouting at the the tv. It is at this point that your wife either notices the same error, or points out that it doesn't really matter and that nobody actually cares.
But, i care and i think that it matters and that is good enough for me.

I can think of a couple of recent examples.

My local BBC news program did a piece about the temporary closure of a rail line, which includes work being carried out in Ore Tunnel, near Hastings. During the film they managed to show the wrong tunnel and the wrong type of train that would be affected. You might not think that this matters, but the train showed was electric and the line and trains to be affected are diesel. An electric train would not get very far on a non-electrified line now would it?
As you can imagine this provoked some debate and laughter amongst local railway colleagues online.

My other example, or examples, concern an otherwise very good BBC program called Great British Railway Journeys. Quite often during the program they show trains going in the wrong direction and shots that are obviously, to the trained and experienced eye, filmed and then played backwards.
As a general rule, trains in the UK drive on the left hand side by the way. So, as soon as i spot one on the right hand side of the tracks my eyes prick up.

As it happens, a few years ago i was actually involved in the filming of a specialist railway documentary. I helped the director facilitate his filming and also drove some of the trains that were filmed. The film was of a train drivers eye view of the railway lines between Brighton, Seaford and Ashford.
Although this was all filmed correctly, after all it was likely to be watched by many railway "anoraks". There was still some footage that was filmed to be used backwards in the finished product.
This was only footage filmed from within the train, looking out of the side window and to be honest there is no way you would be able to tell the difference anyway.
In this instance i totally understand why this was done. It certainly saved a lot of time and money and was not trying to deceive anyone. But it does show how just how frequently this kind of thing is done.

Whilst i fully understand that all of this doesn't really matter in the big scheme of things and that there are certainly far more important things to get worried and worked up about. I've always felt that if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well.
As far as tv programs go, i have often thought that these "errors" are generally down to lazy journalism, cost cutting and maybe even deception.
And it doesn't exactly fill you full of confidence in the program concerned does it?

After all, if you can't believe the footage, how can you believe the words?

And don't get me started on news reporters standing in outdoor locations when there is absolutely no need for it. For example:
- Reporters hanging on for dear life and desperately trying not to be blown away when reporting gale force winds. We all know it's windy, but we don't need to see a reporter struggling in the wind, or having their umbrella blown inside out, to realise that.
- Local tv news reporters doing an outdoor piece from, literally, right outside the door to the tv studio building.
News doesn't suddenly become more exciting, authoritative or relevant because it is "reported" from the outdoors.

Phew! That feels better.

PS: If you are interested in seeing, or finding out more about that railway documentary i mentioned and see me driving a train, follow this link: Video125
I might just give the DVD a view myself.

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