US Election scorecard

  • Obama: 349
  • McCain: 162
  • Twitter: 538
  • BBC sound engineering: -4096

I was very conscious, as I watched the BBC’s coverage, of three things. Firstly, that I should have gone to bed after Ohio declared. Secondly, that they were having horrific problems with audio, all through the night. Barely a link was survived without echo, mysterious noises off, one-way connections, a contributor or correspondent yanking their earpiece to avoid howl, microphones not being faded up or down correctly, or a remote cue being entirely missed.

Couple the all-pervasive audio problems with some distinctly squiffy video quality (some amazingly bad chromakey, very chunky compressed stuff in places, and some footage that was plainly transmitted in the wrong aspect ratio), and you have a bad night for the BBC technical department. Something of a rout, in fact.

The dodgy technical quality was mirrored, to some extent, in shaky production values. There were some excellent, fiery and insightful studio guests, and the BBC’s correspondents were, mostly, thoroughly professional (Katty Kay and Matt Frei, take a bow). However, the new touchscreen analysis battle room set they were trying out was, frankly, ill-conceived. Let’s not mention the ghastly sound effects and touch…touch…touch dammit touch screen, let’s rather point a scornful finger at the basic problem of using such devices on TV: the presenter spends most of their time with their back to camera. Gee, thanks, that’s lovely.

Couple with Dimbleby rather bizarrely moving the show along immediately there was any sniff of interesting discussion – usually to something banal, or with no audio feed – and the whole package was, frankly, pretty shaky.

Now, for the most part it wasn’t bad as such. But the show rarely rose to the heights we expect – nay, demand – of our national broadcaster.

Which brings me to the third thing of which I was critically conscious: this was, I believe, the last election night I will experience exclusively through ‘old’ media. I’d intended to lug my laptop into the lounge, but it was busy compressing video and my broadband was on the fritz anyway. So I didn’t.

And then I started to miss Twitter, and the US political blogs.

And then I got all nostalgic. I don’t remember even thinking about following the 2004 election online – I was BBC all the way. Now, suddenly, I’ve crossed whatever mental barrier was in place, and my starting assumption is that the BBC’s coverage is just another feed to place alongside all the others.

I realised, at that point, that I’m unlikely ever to watch election results the ‘old’ way, again. So I watched as much of US’08 as I could with a slightly forlorn sense of time being marked.

If it’s possible to be nostalgic for something while it’s happening, that was my frame of mind. Hence, I rather liked the technical goofs. They were part of that package, part of that way of doing things, part of how the world used to be.

Now we have fail whales and “500 Server Error” and spam storms. They’re just not the same.

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