US v. UK: Battle of the Tones
The United Kingdom and the United States differ in food cravings, favorite sports, and the way they cover the news. Tonight, I did an experiment. I watched a local and international newscast from both ABC News and BBC News. However, in the midst of an election, I couldn’t expect to watch coverage on anything else. The international newscast featured on BBC News covered the U.S. election and on ABC it covered the Tropical Storm Eta passing through Honduras. The local newscast featured on BBC News covered the coronavirus and on ABC News, of course, the election.
The biggest difference is the tone in which the news is delivered including anchor tone, headlines, copy, etc. The United Kingdom had a more calm, stern delivery tone, whereas the U.S. tends to always be in “panic” mode. I recognize an extremely stressful election is underway, but I’ve also noticed this in newscasts in the past. It has a sense of sensationalism. I can only assume this “panic” mode ultimately translates to keeping viewers engaged and from changing the channel, also benefitting advertisers on the station. The U.S. segment about the tropical storm featured dramatic imagery, highlighting the struggles rather than providing information on the who, what, where, when, and how of the NOW. The U.K. segment covering the U.S. election included an update on the electoral vote count, video footage of each candidate giving a speech, and what happens next — we continue to count.
On a local level, the respective differences still existed. BBC reported on citywide coronavirus testing in Liverpool. The U.K. recently announced a lockdown, an announcement that in the U.S. that would have people up in arms. There is certainly controversy, but not like the effect I could imagine just the simple talk of shutting down would have in the U.S. The ABC segment covering the election was very dramatic, as expected.
This is not to say one tone is better than the other, but there is a clear difference in how the news is delivered. BBC got the facts out of the way and then focused on the opinions. ABC hooks a viewer with a bold statement and then continues onto the story.
After some research, I found another interesting layer. In the U.K. there are dominant news stations considered to be “in the middle,” such as BBC. In the US, our dominant news stations are perceived to lean either “right” or “left.” This makes it difficult as a viewer to choose which to pay attention to. We’re left flipping between the several available to find a middle ground. The U.S. often finds the opinions of a controversy to be the core of the news story, where the U.K. finds the occurrence of controversy itself to be the story. Each has its advantages and disadvantages in reference to viewership, funding, etc., but the most important thing is to be informed and bring greater public awareness to the news itself.