BBC versus CNN: An Overview According to Linguistic Point of View

Television makes suggestions about what to think about, not how to go about thinking                                   … Scott Kaufmanns

News Media has procured an extremely significant position in the fields of economy, politics and issues concerning society. News television is effectively playing its part in this information revolution. People in today’s global societies not only watch national newscasts, but also watch international news more and more, because things that happen in other parts of the world may affect their lives as well. Following the parallel tendencies of globalization, it soon became clear that there is a huge market opening for those organizations that offer international news for international audiences.

International news channels such as BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) and CNN (Cable News Network) are the products of the late twentieth century, and by their nature they have even more power in forming the public opinion than those channels which only partially deal with international news. No one doubts that London __ BBC’s headquarters __ and Washington __ CNN’s headquarters __ are both centers of international information but there is clearly an existing rivalry between the two channels.

According to linguistic point of view there are some characteristic features of both newscasts, which describe the way each channel presents news and consequently should be distinguished at the beginning. In relation to the length of the newscasts, it appeared that BBC World has a longer newscast concerning both the elapsed time and the word count categories. This data is a consequence of the fact that CNN has a one minute commercial break three times in its newscast; and BBC World only has a few seconds of break between parts of the newscast, otherwise they are both considered as nine o’clock news lasting until nine thirty, including the weather forecast.

If we take a closer look at the structure of the newscasts it reveals that both begin with the headlines. This is carried out similarly at both channels, as the presenter announces the main news in short sentences, while recorded motion pictures illustrate each unit being mentioned. However, at the end of the program – in both cases a sentence beginning with `that’s all’ finishes the newscast – BBC’s presenter once again as a reminder summarizes the main happenings of the day, while on CNN, the presenter quickly says thanks to the viewers for watching and terminates the newscast. So the editing strategy is different here. The reminder can be helpful, as it is useful for those who missed parts of the newscast, and it can serve as a reassurance as well, so people have heard the main news three times by nine thirty. On the other hand finishing the program quickly can suggest the editorial intention of, `let’s quickly tell them the news, without any boring parts if possible, and let them do other things during the night’.

Another striking phenomenon is the `still to come’ part in the newscasts (appearing once in every BBC World news, and three times during a CNN newscast), which is intentionally selected to be an exciting news item, and never precedes directly the news item it mentions. Consequently after this interruption the speaker has to recreate the atmosphere, which characterized the preceding part of the newscast, and the strategy in both cases is to carry on with the next news item immediately without any comment. On CNN this `still to come’ part always precedes commercial blocks, it consumes around 10 seconds, and the aim is clearly to invite the viewers to stay there, because there is still lots of interesting news to come. In the case of BBC World, however, the purpose is different, since there are no commercials included and these `still to come’ parts are usually placed at the middle of the newscast. There is only a short pause in the flow of news after these sentences, and the aim is possibly to maintain the interest of the audience by referring to a forthcoming curiosity.

It is hard to characterize the types of news units concerning their subject matter, however the average person would probably say the biggest part of a newscast is made up of political and diplomatic affairs. On BBC World, an average of six news items concerns matters of politics or diplomatic happenings, which means that almost half of the newscast is made up by them. The other part of the newscast mostly contains nationally important event (the international relation is still there in the background) that can be interesting for international audiences, and of course, many exciting items, which by their entertaining natures gain significance in the newscast. On CNN, however, there seem to be a stricter order concerning the topic of individual newscasts. The majority of the newscasts are made up of matters of diplomacy and politics, and only around one fifth remains for other less serious events. The elapsed time factors of the newscasts reveal several things. The first thing that is ascertained is that the period of time effectively used (while news was being reported) during the newscasts of BBC World is longer than the interval used up on CNN’s newscasts.


… Scott Kaufmanns

2 thoughts on “BBC versus CNN: An Overview According to Linguistic Point of View”

  1. I am from india and i basically watch our’s regional channels.But once i watched bbc and cnn both for 1/2 and 1/2 hrs respectively,then really i got much attracted towards cnn and started watching that channel then after.
    So i go with cnn for effective linguistics and great news.
    Not only that if u check the international trp ratings cnn is dominating double the times of bbc


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