As regular readers will know, I try avoid to the television news for fear of the consequences on my blood pressure. However, despite my best efforts I did catch about 2 minutes of the 10 o’clock news on the BBC last night – though I should make clear that the rant which follows would apply equally to any other provider of televisual current affairs.
Those with a vaguely operable hippocampus and a passing interest in recent happenings, may be aware that the folk north of the border have decided to stop charging patients for prescriptions. Given the famed ill-health of the Scots, I can’t help worrying that this might turn out to be a tad expensive – but if you’ve just paid £7.20 for 7 pills you would probably admire their pluck (and consider a move rather closer to the source of good whisky).
A story of some little interest, especially if you were a poorly scotsman. However, I reckon I could cover it in a pretty short sentence – “Free prescriptions in Scotland” should suffice (at least if I added a finite verb to the ensemble of words). Even adding some background about the fulfilment of an election promise (something of which we Sassenachs can only dream) and the date of implementation would still only leave you with a fairly short paragraph. I think I could deliver this from behind a desk (or propped on the corner of one, depending on channel) in under a minute in a manner which could be understood by the entire English speaking audience over the age of 4 – even without the aid of a nubile young lovely to assist me and despite my tendency to digress.
However, according to the BBC I am over-estimating its viewers significantly. They chose to send a reporter to a pharmacy and as this pharmacy was rather generic looking, and the reporter lacked a strong accent, the piece was helpfully captioned “Glasgow” so that we would know we were in Scotland – though I wonder if they should have also explained that Glasgow is a city in Scotland given the poor take-up of geography qualifications reported in recent weeks (at least in these days of “compliance” we can be sure that it really was in Glasgow, and not just round the corner from White City). I assume the pharmacy was to help the hard of thinking place the word “prescription” into an appropriate context since it is so often used in other ways, particularly by those in property law who are famed for their weak powers of comprehension. Our reporter then delivered a 2-3 minute piece to camera surrounded by tablets, corn plasters, sun lotion and the other staples of the pharmacist’s trade – before we were returned to someone behind a desk in a studio. I do wonder if a photograph of a pharmacy – perhaps with a tartan-clad bagpiper photoshopped into it to give it the appropriate geographical vibe – could have been used and the piece delivered from behind the desk? Better still, given the extremely simple nature of the story, perhaps we could forego the visual aids entirely? Surely, in these times of tightened belts and given the focus on cutting costs, a newsreader merely “reading” the “news” would have been a much more cost-effective option? I would not wish to deny any reporter an afternoon out and a bit of fun. However, I doubt he would have been too upset to miss the opportunity of standing around a small branch of Boots – a frankly rather dull activity which most of us can do almost any week at only very modest cost, but usually don’t (unless we have a prescription to collect). He might even have enjoyed the chance to stay at home (or in the office) doing some actual journalism – though perhaps since Wikileaks, journalism has become rather passé (why work on a story if you can just wait for some Australian hacker in need of a haircut to “leak” everything and then just cut-and-paste it?).
Am I being unreasonable? Did you enjoy seeing a man standing around in a chemist’s? Would you like to see men pointlessly standing around in other shops? Would you have preferred a woman? A minor celebrity? A trained animal of some sort? Call my premium rate phone line now to register your vote and be in with a chance of winning a free prescription. (Calls will cost no more than £7.20. All votes will be ignored. Terms and Conditions apply. Please note, free prescription can only be claimed in Scotland after 1 April 2011.)