So, as a matter of habit, I normally eat my dinner while watching SBS's nightly news. However, a couple of nights ago, while I was cooking, I went channel surfing before SBS's news came on and found myself watching the nightly bulletin from Channel 9. I have never liked the news on the commercial networks, and this reminded me why. My problem is not merely with the asinine programming and bizarre priorities, though that is a lot of it. Frankly, I couldn't care less about the relationship of some Hollywood bimbo or whether some local guy can scoff five packs of Tim Tams in five seconds, and it continually baffles me why major world affairs such as conflict in Israel or the Darfur crisis are relegated to a meagre snippet while some state politician's sex life is headline news. What really got me a couple of nights ago, though, was the actual quality of the reporting itself.
It's not a new observation in the slightest, but I'd been blissfully forgetful of its full extent for a while: the news media's actual integrity is in tatters and anyone taking their information and forming their opinions solely based on the nightly news (or mainstream papers) is going to be misinformed. Channel 9's reporting on the execution of Saddam Hussein was downright terrible and I have to wonder where their journalistic integrity went. According to their report, reactions to Saddam's death have been largely subdued, with Shi'ites and Kurds delighted at the news. Sure, they mentioned the return of Saddam's body to his hometown, but there was no coverage of the mourning, no coverage or even acknowledgement of Sunni anger, and the wider Arabic world's response might as well have not existed. So after this, I tuned into SBS, and while I am not going to claim their coverage as perfect, it was a breath of fresh air, with the Sunni reaction and events in Saddam's hometown covered in as much depth as a news bulletin will allow, and even a mention was made of the wider Arab world's displeasure at the course of events. I suppose that this is in part due to SBS's nature - their diverse viewership requires more of an effort, and I have always found their presentations to be more sincere, more concerned with the information than entertainment. Of course, any attentive viewer can readily identify their biases, with tonight's bulletin featuring a great subtle swipe at Bush at the end of one story, and I'm disappointed that they haven't focused on the controversy of Saddam's execution occurring on Eid al-Adha (which is, despite the poor reporting in Western media, quite the controversy indeed), but at least I feel a little more informed and provided with a worldwide perspective when I watch their news. The commercial networks leave me feeling less informed, as if not much of significance has really taken place in the world.
Also, if you have seen the mobile phone camera footage of Saddam Hussein's execution, pay close attention and note the chant: "Muqtada, Muqtada, Muqtada". What? Just remember this name: Muqtada al-Sadr. Now, I'm not going to go as far as some I've heard and already jump to the conclusion of "from one dictator to another", but Muqtada al-Sadr has strong influence over a growing portion of the Iraqi Shi'ite populace and I can't say I feel at ease.