|Created by||John Morton, Tony Roche|
|Directed by||John Morton|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||1|
|No. of episodes||6 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Jon Plowman|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Original channel||BBC Two|
|Original run||31 October 2005 – 6 December 2005|
Broken News is a comedy programme shown on BBC Two in autumn 2005 and in Australia on SBS-TV from the 17 July 2006. The show poked fun at the world of 24-hour rolling news channels. The title of the show is a play on the phrase "breaking news". It had six thirty-minute episodes. Having previously worked on programmes such as People Like Us and The Sunday Format, the show's production team worked closely with writer and director John Morton.
The show jump cut between its various spoof TV channels, which covered both the central story and other stories that would be of interest to their audience. A large part of the comedy came from observations about the nature of news presentation rather than the stories themselves.
The programme centered on Britain's addiction to 24-hour news channels. Each week, Broken News looked at a fictitious news story such as "Tomato Flu" or "The End of the Rain". Its massive cast of 145 actors played newsreaders and reporters on different networks.
It was released on DVD Region 2 on 12 June 2006.
The featured networks
The programme featured mainly the following fictitious networks:
- Aronovitz Business News. This business and financial news station featured onscreen graphics similar in style to Bloomberg Television. Most of the screen is taken up by graphs and stock-tickers (showing prices of hilarious nonexistent stocks such as "Unicorn hooves") with only a small window where Gary Mills and Mitchell Oatis tend to argue with rather 'colourful' similes ("Well, Marks and Spencer are leading investors up the garden path yet again. Why do we have to say 'Yes, we love the underwear and the food'? Why not merge them to make edible underwear?") . Some of the smaller graphics transition by spinning around on a regular basis, and sometimes the studio window spins, as an extra joke.
- ESN News is an example of style over content where news is forever coming up but never arrives ("Still to come, a round-up of the reminders of the news still to come."). Largely based on the ITV News Channel and partly on Sky News, with a rolling news ticker, two newscasters (Katie Tate and Richard Pritchard) at a desk at the front of the studio. Melanie Bellamy delivers the "standing news" to a large screen at the back of the studio, displaying slightly nauseating floating graphics. The station has a reporter embedded with the crew of the International Space Station, Nick Burnham, who is inevitably miles away from the news. He therefore exaggerates all stories to make the situation seem as dire as possible ("We have been informed that up a third of our supplies contain Tomatoids, and we've already eaten half!"). The first and last names of the channels' reporters sound almost alike, such as Nicholas Nicklaus, Amanda Panda and Alison Ellison, a running gag on the channel. The station also reads out ill-informed text messages sent in by viewers ("Everyone keeps passing the buck for this problem - I blame society", "I'm not a Nazi sympathiser, but why don't we ever sympathise with them?") and performs phone polls ("Are children all criminals? Yes: 104%, No: 103%).
- Film and Movie News features interviews with all the star names in the movie industry, similar in style to Jonathan Ross hosted Film programme. Joe Reed is the resident presenter and film critic (and part-time lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Bournemouth), who flatters film stars during interviews — and then berates their performances in reviews ("I thought I was going to vomit so hard, my liquified kidneys would be forced out of my nose" and "If you see this train-wreck of a movie, you will feel the overwhelming desire to rip out your eyes and force them up into your ears, just so you can't see or hear this film.").
- GO Sports 1 is a sports news channel in the style of Sky Sports News, featuring bizarre stats on the right hand side of the screen such as which Premiership club owns the most Dido CDs and who are the top football lovers this season. The main anchors are Kevin Peters and Natalie Gosling, with Guy Baston as reporter ("Manchester United have denied that starting other Manchester Uniteds in China, Japan, Australia, the US, Scotland, Wales and London would make the club any less unique or be in the least bit confusing"). The channel also runs several other channels (GO Sports 1 2 to GO Sports 1 5) which show non-stop match buildup, post match analysis, repeats and multiangle interactive repeats of all the big matches.
- IBS News is an American news channel that appears to be a parody of FOX News. The station's newsreaders, Anthony Markowitz and Julia Regan (Claudia Christian), give long pieces of opinion after every topic, often using the phrases 'I'm no expert' or 'I don't pretend to know much about this, but...'. Anthony tends to give colloquial, ill-informed opinion ("When you flush the toilet on an aeroplane, do you ever think about where it goes? I sure don't!"), while Julia gives incredibly political commentary on the outcome ("Imagine the effect this will have on the already strict aviation guidelines in force"). They then inevitably link the story, however tenuously, to the weather report ("No more frozen urine falling from the sky, but expect rain over North Carolina"). It also covers the "Vincenti Trial", a parody of the Michael Jackson and O.J. Simpson trials, where the main defendant is accused of murdering his wife who was having affairs with three different women in three hotels in three states simultaneously while technically dead ("Of course whether or not this is even possible has to be considered a legal nicety").
- Look Out East is a mish-mash of regional UK news programmes (the name is a parody of BBC Look East). They lead with banal stories ("Man has teeth stolen!") and feature banter between the urbane hosts, Phil Curdridge and Sarah Holt, and the mild-mannered weather presenter, Russ. Invariably the conversation veers off and ends up discussing some smutty topic ("The closest was the time we visited a Portuguese nudist beach! That's the time my daughter was conceived, I think..."), with a subtext that is usually at the expense of Russ. All these end with "Let's not go there!" or "Oh, you boys!".
- PVS News, the earnest, no-frills network. The set, presentation, and on screen graphics mirror that of BBC News 24. The main anchors are Adam Lockwood and Frances Walsh (reportedly born within minutes of each other and have been indistinguishable ever since) whose running gag is to complete each other's words and sentences. The station features live links to various locations, with international correspondent Will Parker. The station uses poor quality live satellite links to locations where events have not occurred yet ("Donald Rumsfeld is very much his own man, and people here are talking about what he will not say as much as what he will say when he does turn up. He will probably not say what we expect him to say, because that's not his style") and covers unimportant stories too, just to fill up the time ("Due to a debate between TV producers and librarians, news channels cannot shoot new footage of libraries. These library pictures were shot months ago.") The field reporters often ask the main anchors "What more can you tell us" - a complete role reversal.
- SO News claims to supply everything you ever wanted to know about the world of celebrity, similar in style to BBC Three's now defunct Liquid News. Presented by Claudia van Sant (Lucy Porter) and Colin Kay, the channel leads with vapid gossip on various celebrities, with an incredibly camp American reporter live in Los Angeles, Josh Cashman (Phil Nichol), who begins all reports with 'Pur-leasee!' ("I mean, can you imagine if Robin Williams turned up naked to his next premiere?"). Cashman is presumably based on Cash Peters, who does a similar style broadcast on BBC Radio Five Live.
Other smaller networks include:
- 15 Second News, based on BBC Three's 60 Seconds news bulletins. In order to make the news "manageable", important stories are broken into three word headlines ("In national news a car is found in a tree in Basingstoke. Israel threatens. In sport, two world records are broken. More later").
- Traffic Round-up-date, a round-up of the latest traffic conditions (similar to BBC London's reports in the morning). Roads are routinely mis-labeled (or in some cases, made up entirely) ("On the A313131, Fiddler's Elbow, a lorry has overturned, spilling its load of cars. Traffic is slow to the extra volume of cars on the road", "Motorists have been warned of some weather in severe parts of the country").
- World Money Today: A spoof of BBC News 24's World Business Report, with similar graphics and simulcast between several presenters worldwide. The main presenter is Dan Evans, based in a London studio. The other reporters are based in New York, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Berlin, Geneva, Buenos Aires, Johannesburg and Sydney
Occasional separate weather reports are thrown in, with graphic and presentation styles similar to those found on many television channels in the UK. They are often cut together in such a way that the resulting sentences are complete nonsense. The weather reports vary from almost useless ("There's going to be a lot of air tomorrow") to over-useful ("The northern Tajikistan province of Gorno-Badakhshan has experienced no weather for over four months now.") and gives pointless figures similar to the pollen, pollution and sun indices used by BBC and ITV weather stations ("There is a warning of high altitude for people living on mountains in the Pennines and Yorkshire Dales").
- Tomato Flu An outbreak of tomato flu is in the headlines. This alarming new super-virus (a parody of avian influenza) can be traced back to a turkey farm in Turkey. The news networks advise on the best way to avoid tomatoids in food such as tomato ketchup. In other news: a man is injured by a frozen block of urine.
- Missing Island A report that an island has gone missing in the Barents Sea triggers paranoia about rising sea levels in Lincolnshire and the end of the world as we know it. In other news: teenagers' attention spans are now as low as eleven seconds.
- Half Way There Day Reports on commemorations around the country to mark the day Britain reached the half-way point in the last World War. In other news: The MADI music awards are here again, without last year's controversy.
- Crime The publication of a Home Office report which reveals that the majority of teenagers are now criminals leads to a series of news stories from the country's worst-hit areas. A picture of Britain in which the teenage population "now effectively feral, roam Britain's urban landscapes in packs of up to fifteen at a single time." In other news: East Anglia could be gone within a decade.
- Bolivian Crisis Reaction comes from around the world to rumours that Bolivia might have acquired nuclear weapons. Including a report from The White House: This is a bad day for the good guys, President Bush. In other news: A cross-eyed man kills a horse while trying to shoot himself.
- Hijack Media frenzy is quick to follow after reports emerge of an apparent hijack of an American passenger flight bound for Amsterdam. This live breaking story dominates the running orders of the world's news networks. In other news: An injunction has been served on Josh Cashman.
Context and criticism
Broken News follows a rich heritage of UK television comedies about news broadcasts and current news stories. While most UK news-related comedy has been based on jokes about current events (such as Have I Got News For You, Seven Days and Mock the News), there have been also a few TV shows that parodied news broadcasts while not being topical (Not The Nine O'Clock News, The Day Today and Broken News). For contrast, in the USA it is typical for a news comedy show to combine both, and do topical news jokes in a format that also looks like, and frequently parodies news forecasts themselves (like The Daily Show, Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update and The Colbert Report).
As a parody of news shows and networks, Broken News updates and expands the genre from the original parody of news shows, Not the Nine O'Clock News, which was later adapted for US audiences as Not Necessarily the News. Not the Nine O'Clock News was a parody of news broadcasts of the early TV era where news was very serious and before cable TV, the one nightly news broadcast would gather much of the nation around the TV set. Not the Nine O'Clock News would include topical jokes, but also poke fun at other TV formats such as music videos. The Day Today updated the parody to focus only on TV news shows in the modern era, when news anchors had become TV icons and often had huge egos, but as a TV show, it was still a parody of one TV news show. Broken News expanded the concept of news parodies into the modern world of 24-hour cable TV news, with multiple news channels, where the same news is covered on a wide range of news channels - not always accurately on each of them - and where some news channels might be oblivious to even dramatic world news. Broken News also extended the jokes into the various news tickers which in practice doubled the number of jokes per episode, and for fans of the show, provided a reason to watch each episode twice, once to see the visual and spoken gags, then to read the completely unrelated written gags in the news tickers of the various news channels parodied.
Some have accused the show of being too close in style, presentation, writing and humour to the groundbreaking news satire The Day Today, first broadcast in 1994. Broken News has been attacked as "The Day Today for idiots. A show with nothing to say, full of...sub-Chris Morris newspeak and malapropism-humour shorn of all originality. The Day Today had a reason to exist - this didn't." However, co-creator John Morton said in The Guardian "I hope after the first 10 minutes of our show you realise that it's a different animal from The Day Today. The target has changed because we've got this Tower of Babel of news. Plus we're sillier and more harmless." 
- "Comedy Tumbleweed Awards 2005".
- Armstrong, Stephen (31 October 2005). "'It's going to get a lot worse before it gets worse still'". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 27 April 2010.
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