Yesterday this blog declared we had hit peak silly season and right on cue the media duly obliged with that timeless silly season staple: some shark-related holiday horror. Not in Cornwall this time (for a change) but Benidorm.
The Sun reported a 10-year-old boy had been "mauled" by a seven foot "beast" and "holidaymakers fled from a packed beach" (though you'd think most people would know they are safe from sharks on the beach). The Daily Star was unequivocal: this had been a "JAWS ATTACK".
However, despite the Daily Star's obligatory use of a library photo of a Great White shark, the real pictures of the injury sustained rather undermined the headlines and stock pictures of ominous-looking shark fins and gnashing jaws:
A report in the Daily Mail suggests the fish may have been closer to 60cm long and was responding to the boy trying to prod it.
So 'boy nearly prods fish, gets bitten'. Those awaiting storyline ideas for Jaws 5 may have to keep waiting.
It's finally happened. It's been coming for a while, but I am calling it - we are now at peak silly season with news (because I don't really know what else to call it) that David Cameron ate some crisps on a flight. No really. He ate some crisps on a plane. They were paprika-flavoured Pringles, seeing as you didn't ask and probably don't care.
'Silly season' seems to last year-round nowadays but it still has a discernible peak during the summer and we are now, surely, there. With every seagull-related headline it has felt like we've been getting closer by the day, including one claiming seagulls were "poised to sabotage Great British Bake Off" (despite the competition having already been filmed). Then we had the "mythical lizard man of South Carolina" hitting the headlines along with some hairy babies (no idea) and the usual mix of research stories:
As well as being a good time to see hairy babies (still no idea), silly season is a prime time for spotting ghosts and miracle sightings such as Jesus on a bathroom wall, Jesus in the tail smoke of a plane, Vladimir Putin in some starlings and Anne Boleyn in a badly blurred photo of a lamp from Hampton Court:
But not even Vladimir Putin can compete with another world leader eating some crisps on a plane. Crisps. On a plane. Incredible scenes.
The Daily Express is demanding to know:
So I looked into it and it turns out the answer is no, not really.
According to the BBC's annual report, the Corporation broadcasts more than 98,000 hours of radio and television content for us to choose from each year and only 35 minutes - less than 0.0006 per cent of its output - was taken up by Songs of Praise from Calais.
So there you go.
Although the BBC won't say how much was spent on the Calais episode of Songs of Praise some basic maths tells us it must have accounted for a tiny part of our licence fees.
Songs of Praise is a small part of more than 8,200 hours of programming on BBC1, funded by a £1.1bn budget. That means the average cost of 35 minutes programming on BBC1 is about £78,000, with some broadcasts costing considerably less and some costing considerably more. Songs of Praise is clearly not a lavish production with big name stars and expensive special effects but it probably costs more than a repeat of Pointless. As such it seems likely the cost of that Calais episode to the 25 million homes and businesses who fund the BBC is most likely in the region of half a pence each, or less.
I didn’t watch the programme myself, but they are welcome to my half penny.
For more on why the BBC was right to take Songs of Praise to Calais and why many of the arguments against the licence fee don't stack up, see:
Never underestimate the Daily Mail's ability to see 'political correctness gone mad!' in almost anything. Today it is the turn of Bob The Builder who is returning in a new series that will include a black character.
"Not even Bob the Builder can withstand the forces of political correctness," writes a Daily Mail showbiz reporter who possibly never imagined having to type such a sentence. "The cherished series is returning to our screens with the show's first prominent black character."
The Mail has already criticised Great British Bake Off this summer for including too many "fashionable minorities" in its line-up, singling out "a Muslim with a headscarf", "a househusband" and an "Afro-Caribbean".
Of course the Mail knows what it's doing with such ridiculous outrage. It is trying to whip up very real outrage among its readers. And it works - no matter how silly the story. Here's a sample of the responses they stirred up with the Bob The Builder story, with added points for a textbook mention of "leftists":
Three things struck me when I read that the BBC's Songs of Praise would be filmed in the refugee camp known as 'The Jungle' in Calais.
1) Songs of Praise is still going. Really? I had no idea.
2) If the programme has ambitions to be more relevant and reach new audiences then this seems a smart move given how high-profile the Calais story is currently.
3) This would inevitably be used as a stick by all those who criticise the BBC for anything it does. And so it proved...
It turns out Songs of Praise is indeed still going, but after more than 50 years it has been trying of late to arrest falling viewing figures by tinkering with its format. The trip to Calais is clearly an attempt to remind people it still exists and reach new viewers by tackling a current, highly relevant issue.
The media have made the refugee crisis in Calais the top story over the past fortnight and no doubt Songs of Praise spotted not only an opportunity to thrust itself into a story which is high-profile and topical - not words often associated with Songs of Praise I imagine - but also an editorial opportunity to cover the crisis, not with the scaremongering xenophobia that has become so commonplace elsewhere, but with some humanity, via an examination of the faith which clearly fortifies some people living in adversity.
Of course the Songs of Praise decision was always destined to earn the ire of those media outlets who have been working hard to whip up a scare story that has brought out the very worst in their readers. Many of the comments posted on the Daily Mail website, for example, have been distinctly unchristian:
The decision to visit Calais was also destined to draw fire because it's the BBC daring to do anything. But it is easy to imagine the BBC would also be damned for turning its back on "old-fashioned Christian values" if it was to consign Songs of Praise to the TV scrapheap without at least trying to raise its profile and relevance.
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