The point of the silence?

I know this is a few days after the event, but I’ve just written to the BBC (which I’ve not done before), regarding their coverage on Remembrance Day. I am, of course, hoping for a response! But I’m also interested to hear other people’s thoughts on the subject.

I am writing in response to BBC News coverage of the Act of Remembrance from the Tower of London yesterday. In this report the poppies at the Tower were shown to full effect, producing a profoundly moving representation of the extent and nature of the losses incurred in the first world war. However I found the coverage of the actual two minute silence discomfiting.

The two-minute silence was well observed, as usual. But I was struck that during the silence, we were shown pictures of the silence being observed across the country. So whilst there was auditory silence, there was no ‘visual silence’ for television news viewers.

Silence is very unfamiliar in public life. It is also often uncomfortable. Which is why it is there – giving an opportunity to reflect on a personal level about the nature and implications of conflict, and the human losses incurred. Showing camera shots panning across the country offers a way out of that discomfort, and in my view fails to honour the intention of the silence. (It is perhaps also worth noting that such camera work is redolent of more celebratory events (Last Night of the Proms, for example) which are indeed opportunities for celebration.)

I understand the importance of showing remembrance events from across the four UK nations, and the desire to depict a range of institutions and communities. However, in my view these images belong elsewhere in the news coverage. The silence should be just that – silence.

Yours sincerely

Emma Bishton


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