Here in the depths of rural France, 700 kilometers from the Channel, we still manage to receive BBC Radio 4 on our bedside radio. Usually we catch part of ‘Today’ and the midnight news (one o’clock for us). Sometimes we listen instead over the internet and very occasionally have them both on at the same time, in different rooms.
That’s when you notice the delay. The internet is about seven seconds behind the radio. Either digital signals slow down remarkably between the UK and France (unlike Skype) or the BBC is reducing risk by increasing control.
It is even more noticeable if you get your news via the internet. I find that the BBC tends to be about 36 hours out of date. Yesterday morning it reported that 20% of the UK’s infantry force are not fit enough to fight. I first saw that on-line two days previously, on Sunday.
Not only were the BBC two days late, but they also protected us from an offensive word – fat! Colonel Bob Stewart, Britain’s former NATO commander in Bosnia, was quoted on Sunday as saying: “The final reason, which is more and more of a problem, is that they are unfit; they are too fat.” The BBC preferred not to mention this and instead talk about injuries and lack of overall manpower.
In a similar vein, my hat tip today goes to Richard Ingrams, writing in Saturday’s Independent. Apparently a gym in Bristol got into trouble for promoting itself by saying: ” When the aliens come, they will eat the fatties first!”.
Clearly we are not allowed to call people fat any more. But it doesn’t stop there. As Ingrams goes on to point out, we are also not allowed to use the word ‘ginger’. In recent weeks both the BBC and Tesco have publicly apologised for using the word to refer to somebody’s hair colour.
As a guest in a previous post on my own blog commented, in Orwells 1984: “cultural vocabulary is continually shrunk to reduce the means of expression, richness of communication and the ability to share and convey ideas”. Indeed.