You may have noticed that the X-Factor has started again. I have, although I have no idea how. It’s ITV’s Big Show. With a capital B. I’m sure no expense is spared and the celebrities involved are being paid handsomely to preside over the contrived carnival of mediocrity.
Contrast this with the recent announcement that there are to be several dozen job losses from its regional news operation. Local journalism at the ITV is slowly having the life squeezed out of it and it shows.
Here in the Midlands (a region that apparently to ITV covers everywhere north of Peterborough to Boston, and now with no distinction between East and West Midlands) the standard of the local news bulletins, which was never that high, has been getting steadily worse. The stories are ever more trivial, the focus is frequently on celebrity shit, events in Birmingham are horribly over-prioritised, presumably for cost reasons, and there is systematic re-hashing of national stories that have only the most tenuous connection with the Midlands. That combined with the almost pathological desire for good news stories (especially on the economy) and the complete lack of political coverage, apart from at election time, makes for pretty grim viewing.
If there is contestant from the Midlands appearing on the X-Factor, then you can guarantee that it will feature prominently on our local ITV news bulletin. If the sets for the Julian Fellowes Titanic TV show were constructed by someone who used to live in the Midlands, then we’ll have a piece about that too (and I’m not making that up by the way)
So, what on earth are ITV thinking cutting provision for local journalism even more than they have done already? Have they no sense of journalistic responsibility? Is lining Simon Cowell’s pocket really more important?