Crime and Public Interest


In Britain recorded crime has been falling for several years but there is a widespread perception of the contrary. What is undoubtedly true that many people have a fear of and anxiety about crime even when the statistical chances of being a victim  are miniscule. How comes? I believe the mismatch is caused by the British cultural obsession with crime and the reporting of it for monetary gain. Over some years I engaged the BBC Trust on the issues involved. I argued that Britain’s preocupation with reporting crime was unique in Western Europe. You can watch television across Europe without having to listen or read about crime. and that the British adversarial tradition of conducting public affairs and settling criminal charges was to blame. The BBC position was that that justice had to be ‘seen to be believed’ and that the reporting of it was a public duty. Moreover, it was asserted, involving people assisted the police in catching criminals. I maintained that programmes such as as Crimewatch were the right way to involve and inform the public rather than the dominance of it in news reporting and the absudities of 24 hour reporting of every emotionally catching crime story; and many stories were of a limited geographical interest best dealt with on local radio or television and regional newspapers. After all we do not feel compelled to tune into Crimewatch whereas most of us wish to listen to the national news. The BBC was not willing to move on the issue. It had its ratings to consider. Thus the BBC recognised that its coverage of crime assisted in creating unwarranted public anxiety and fear of crime but they were unwilling to modify its practice.  What do the public really want and should the BBC give it to them? How about bringing back the death penalty and public executions? My God that would produce the most compelling television and outstandingly good viewing figures. Should we look into that, perhaps? What do you think, Jenkins?

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