To The Economist
06 April 2002
You report with apparent surprise that there has been more controversy over the tie Mr Sissons was wearing when he announced the Queen Mother’s death than over the extent of the coverage. Surely The Economist can see better than other papers the difference between a decision which is made by cost-benefit analysis and one which is not?
In disrupting its normal schedule for this news event – or indeed any other – the BBC, and its viewers, incur a cost. Popular programmes were postponed, cancelled, or transferred to another channel. While some may have preferred more, or less, extensive coverage all can easily see that this is a matter of delicate judgement over which reasonable people are certain to disagree.
The matter of Mr Sissons’s tie is utterly different. Breaching the custom that news readers wear a mourning tie to announce a royal death was certain to offend a significant proportion of the audience. Maintaining the custom would have offended no-one. The BBC preferred a decision with no benefits to one with no costs. Thus monarchists are doubly insulted. The BBC offended us, seemingly for no other reason than that it wished to do so.
Copyright © Quentin Langley 06 April 2002