If you ever get that sneaking suspicion that too much of the authoritative-sounding facts in the news are mindlessly made up, it’s great when you find evidence of this. Everyone from the Daily Mail and the Sun, through the Croydon Advertiser and Shropshire Star, on to CNN, the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian blindly reported that “an estimated two billion people” watched the royal wedding.
Whenever real journalists complain that bloggers — mere amateurs! — couldn’t possibly do the work of professionals who have been through proper training, it’s exactly this kind of nonsense that permits you to stare at them, silently, before giving a little giggle and walking away.
There are lots of difficult and ambiguous things that anyone, professional or amateur, could understandably get wrong when reporting news. We all make mistakes and many things are complicated. But for all these very professional news outlets to repeat a “fact” that’s plainly wrong, without even attributing it to anyone, makes you wonder about everything they write.
Really, two billion people? At Sporting Intelligence Nick Harris has a piece in which he pulls out some other high viewing figures.
For example, according to the India Times, the viewership rating agency TAM said the most-watched TV event in India was the 2011 India vs Sri Lanka cricket world cup final, with 135 million viewers. That’s only 11.7% of the Indian population.
The Royal Wedding would have to do a lot, lot better than that in India, China, and many other populous parts of the world where TV ownership is less than in the “West” to reach a global audience of two billion. Even the most fervent royalist can’t think that’s likely.
Really, two billion people? Stop and think before you file that article.
Two billion people is 29.5% of the world’s population.
Does anyone think for a moment that global viewing figures would be three-quarters the level of those in the UK itself? Yes, journalists, I know these are terribly big numbers to deal with but you did all that training, remember? You’re professionals. You’re supposed to question things and when something is as simple as one number, this shouldn’t be too much to ask.
If you want to get complicated you could ask whether the “actual” viewing figures, like those from BARB and TAM, have any basis in reality, or if they’re merely something the advertising-funded TV industry doesn’t want to look at too closely for fear their towers of money will come tumbling down… but maybe that’s too much to ask.