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BBC is no CNN. “At Some Point It’s Almost Parody”

Gail Shister
TVNewser Columnist

Hartman_11.1.jpgIf you’re looking for bells and whistles on Election Night, the BBC is not your cuppa tea.

“I don’t think the BBC will ever be, or aspire to be, the bells-and-whistles network,” says CBS exile Rome Hartman, executive producer of “BBC World News America.”

“Fundamentally, we’re about great stories. Graphics help, and they’re cool. I have a lot of admiration for David Borhman and what he’s doing at CNN. But at a certain point, it’s almost parody.

“If the technology is just there as a ‘Gee whiz!’ it’s probably not the right thing. If it helps tell the story in a clear and understandable way, it’s perfectly fine.”

The BBC’s “U.S. Election Night” will be broadcast live from the network’s Washington bureau to more than 200 countries around the world beginning at 6pmET. In the Colonies, it will be seen exclusively on BBC America and BBC World News.

Former ABC Newsman Ted Koppel will join co-anchors David Dimbleby and Matt Frei in the studio “to step back and paint the big picture,” in Hartman’s words.

In a cheeky twist, contributors will include Ricky Gervais, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Schiff, Jay McInerney and Gore Vidal.


Hartman, who describes his role in the program as “Helper-in-Chief,” describes the motley crew as “a star-studded lineup in every way.

“Entertainment and politics criss-cross. If Barrack Obama can be on “The Daily Show,” we can have Ricky Gervais on our program.”

Hartman worked presidential elections for CBS for 20 years. With numerous moving parts, they’re tough to produce for any platform, in his view. The pressure doesn’t change.

“It’s a complicated program to do, no matter who you are,” he says. “There are lots and lots of remotes and graphics. It’s a huge, numbers-driven story. The imperative to get it right is absolute.”

Absolutely. With a twist. “We’re the friendly outsider with the slightly arched eyebrow,” Hartman says. (We didn’t know Stephen Colbert was British!)

On Election Night, viewers wanting “the county or precinct level of results; the inside-baseball story,” won’t find it on the BBC, Hartman says.

“But if you want the sophisticated, smart view or what the election looks like from Kenya, the BBC is the best place to be.”

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