BBC Five and the boiled frog syndrome

August 22, 2022

Has the BBC has lost its way as a news broadcaster, and does it matter?

This morning I switched on my default radio station, Radio 5, for breaking news, and realised its gradual deterioration over a period of years. The shock is one like the mythical frog immersed in a pot of water which is gradually warmed up until the frog is boiled.

 The story, related first by the management guru Charles Handy, is a warning about the nature of gradual change. Handy saw it in the changes that creep up on an institution until it’s earlier plans long accepted had become obsolete. I just happened to be a very hot frog jumping out of the pot, suddenly aware of what was happening to me.

A little more thought, and I arrived at a disturbing question. In a changing world of near instantaneous  news reports available, does it matter? My evening source of the day’s news is also the BBC, for its regular news channel, and sometimes ITV. I break a habit of avoiding morning TV and give the BBC TV news channel a chance.


A news item about dogs. Then travel news (good). Weather news (also good). A main cycle of news approaches. 

Then, Breakfast news. First item is  about suicide bereavement. Three parents are shown, whose progress has been followed for a year. A bleak and dignified treatment of child suicide, but more a feature than a news update. 


Sport. The European competitions First item, Mixed emotions. The men winning a gold medal for the 100 metres relay, and the women ‘disaster, dropping the baton’. Then a quick list of other gold medals.

On to football, and a brief summary of yesterday’s football. 

Finally the post-fight agony of Antony Joshua, presented by the charismatic Steve Bunch.


Joke time: Break-in at a Liverpool police-station toilet. The police have nothing to go on. Liked the joke.

8.44 am

Weather. Useful.

Then breaking news. 

But first, a fill-in interview about a celebrity walk with a celebrity. Highlight is when the celebrity wasn’t recognised by a security guard. 

I decide to give Radio 5 a second try, while keeping an eye on the news channel.


This multi-tasking is difficult, but the hurried headlines cover the same four stories.

Barristers to go on strike.

Discount promised on electricity bills

The Felixstowe strike

An outbreak of Revenge Porn


A phone-in hour. The discussion topic ‘ Is Britain Breaking

 Is this country up the creek without a paddle?’ the presenter asks. I stop my news sampling and head to the kitchen for my morning muesli.

‘Maybe we are swimming in a sea of pessimism,’ the presenter shouts after me.

It’s only been a brief dip into breakfast television, although the cosy chatting presenters resemble glimpses I have seen in the past. The news is provided briefly among efforts to make morning’s transmission as bright as possible, softening the darkness of a human interest item.
Much the same can be said of Radio 5 Live. New reports have become a routine obligation, perhaps necessary but no longer one of equivalence with entertainment.I realise that for breaking news, it has become easier for me to learn it from messages to my iPhone of from issues trending on Twitter. 

Maybe BBC news services, to use an expression around since Chaucer’s time, are currently being left stewing in their own juices.