The number one news formula: sport and more sport

So there I was, driving along, listening to the radio, when the news comes on. Wow. What’s this! The top news is ... it’s unbelievable. Forget Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria. Never mind Theresa May talking about immigration or tackling terrorism. There was something far more important happening. Lewis Hamilton had won the Formula One driver’s World Championship. I repeat: Lewis Hamilton had WON THE FORMULA ONE DRIVER'S WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

Amazing, eh? Now that’s real news. Hmm. Perhaps, I’m being a bit too heavy on the gas here. Too much sarcasm. I might just career off the circuit at this rate ...

No, there’s surely something ... amiss here. With all due respect to Mr Hamilton and his super-fast Mercedes, I don’t think winning a car racing tournament is the most important thing that happened yesterday. Or indeed, any day.

And coming round the final bend, it’s ... Sport, closely followed by News. They’re NECK AND NECK! It’s gonna go right up to the flag and ... IT’S SPORT, IT’S SPORT!  Sport has beaten News. I DON’T BELIEVE IT!

Ahem. OK, it was a Sunday afternoon and there’s a tradition in Britain of covering sporting fixtures on Sundays (Sundays being the new Saturdays etc), but still ... a little perspective. As it happened, the same champagne cork-popping news bulletin had two genuinely weighty news items that both featured a sporting dimension, oddly enough the same sport. First there was that terrible report about how a suicide bomber in Afghanistan had killed at least 50 people ahead of a volleyball match in Paktika province in the east of the country. The BBC reporter Richard Galpin described the bombing as one of the worst incidents in the country all year, which, given we’re talking about Afghanistan, is saying something.

Then there was news that Ghoncheh Ghavami, the British-Iranian “volleyball protester” had been freed from jail in Iran, apparently on bail. I’ve blogged about Ghavami’s case before: her persecution by the authorities is extremely dubious, seemingly fitting into a pattern whereby the Iranian political/judicial establishment goes after Western nationals (or dual nationals) to exert some kind of pressure on that country. Once again the same Sunday afternoon news bulletin (yes, we're still on the same one!) mentioned the latest “P5+1” negotiations over Iran’s nuclear technology, and one wonders if the development in Ghavami’s case could even be linked to the nuclear diplomacy side of things (some sort of “signal” to Philip Hammond's negotiation team?)

Well then. Dozens dying in Afghanistan and also the future of the Middle East (and even the possibility of an Iranian-Israeli war) versus ... er, Formula One. It’s ... no contest. (Another element to the F1 race, by the way, was the fact that it was being held in Abu Dhabi, UAE’s capital, and subject of a recent Amnesty report on a clampdown on human rights. Glitzy sports car race held in a repressive country that habitually promotes itself via high-tech glamour: could be a possible news angle, no? Er, no, there was no mention of that).

To be fair, an hour later the BBC news bulletins had undergone a re-jig (a tyre change?) and Hamilton’s deliriously impressive driving triumph had slipped to the number two news spot (Theresa May on immigration claiming pole position). But a few items later in this very same bulletin we had ... yes, you guessed it: all the sports news. So when sport isn’t actually the news it’s still ... in the news. Funny old world, eh?

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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