Opinion » Editorial


Ten years ago the power of television finally hit home for those of us who didn’t fully comprehend how the small screen could change the world, and our perceptions of the world. During the Gulf War we were able to sit in front of the TV and watch so-called smart missiles destroy parts of Baghdad at the same instant the people of Baghdad tried to deal with the destruction and loss of life, all thanks to CNN and Peter Arnett. The big lessons of the Gulf War had nothing to do with warfare technology or international politics, they had to do with the discovery that people would spend hours at a time watching live television coverage of a bombing raid or some other disaster unfolding before their eyes. The Princess Diana car crash, the bomb in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympics and the John Kennedy jr. plane crash, among other disasters, have all confirmed this truism in the years since the Gulf War. Today, with more than 70 channels available to most cable and satellite subscribers, and several more channels being considered for the Lower Mainland market, one would think that if there was an event or performance of some importance taking place at least one of the networks would be there to cover it live. But that wasn’t the case with last Sunday’s NDP leadership convention. Certainly there were television reports from the convention and some of the "highlights" — such as Moe Sihota seconding Gordon Wilson’s nomination, screaming at the party faithful about the principles Wilson stood for — were captured on television better than could be done by radio or print media. But highlights were few and generally broadcast after the fact. The short story is the four major television networks in the Lower Mainland didn’t deem the selection of B.C.’s new premier worthy of a couple of hours of live coverage. Perhaps that says something about the expected lifespan of Ujjal Dosanjh’s government. Canada’s first Indo-Canadian premier could be of no more historical significance than Canada’s first female prime minister. But even if that does become the case, television missed most of the intrigue and manoeuvring that took place throughout the NDP convention. On Sunday the party attempted to break from its recent past with the election of Dosanjh as leader, yet the Glen Clark-Dave Barrett-Gordon Wilson axis remains within the NDP. It was newspaper and radio reports which illustrated that division best, bringing forth reports such as Sihota and former premier Mike Harcourt negotiating a truce under the stands at the Pacific Coliseum. Television may provide unparalleled coverage of bombshells — such as the police raid on Clark’s house last year — but in the case of the NDP leadership convention the Vancouver networks couldn’t, or wouldn’t, take the time to tell the more intriguing stories.