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"The following images may be upsetting" in news coverage about Syria

(26 Posts)
PacificDogwood Tue 21-Jan-14 22:19:57

... or other war/conflict zones.

Why the warning?
The news is upsetting ("there appears to be evidence of widespread torture and abuse of detainees"), the few pictures they showed on BBC News24 were clinical and quite 'tame'.

I don't understand the 'warning' - if world events are too upsetting or triggering then of course don't watch the news. If a news story comes on which suggests upsetting content, don't look at the following pictures.
But is a warning needed? This has bothered me before and is not specific to the Syria conflict or the images shown tonight - it's more of a general question.

I'd love to hear everybody's thought on this.

RevoltingPeasant Tue 21-Jan-14 22:22:20

I have always assumed it is in case you have children around? They did this recently on Radio 4 when there was that piece about the man in the Central African Republic cannibalising another man.

Or maybe in case there are people who might get flashbacks like veterans?

NewtRipley Tue 21-Jan-14 22:26:44

Because children are around and parents who would not let them watch violent films or play violent video games, nonetheless want them to know what's going on in the world.

PacificDogwood Tue 21-Jan-14 22:28:54

Hm, ok. Previously traumatised people, yes.
Young children are hopefully not around just now grin and if mine are anything to go by either ignore the Most Important World News or are drawn like moths to the light to the most gruesome stuff with little reflection of what it actually means.
And the warning does not give enough time to usher children out. Or turn their heads away??

It just seems a fairly 'un-grown-up' thing to be told 'watch out, something upsetting that IS actually happening in the world is coming on' when it has already been said and anybody who's listened known that the images will be related to the news story. So is the story reports violence etc, then why do the pictures need an extra warning?

squoosh Tue 21-Jan-14 22:31:16

I was taken aback by the photos I saw this morning and taken aback by the descriptions of images that are available on Twitter that I wouldn't dare look at.

It's right and proper we aren't shielded from them but I understand why there was a warning.

Anja1Cam Tue 21-Jan-14 22:34:20

Exactly. It was 6pm when we first saw that report and DH switched over as soon as the report started because even when doing something else in the room, one of our kids really pays attention and would probably have been fairly upsetupset/worried. No we don't shield them in general (age 9), but some things still do need filtering. In this case it was actually the words as much as the pictures.

scaevola Tue 21-Jan-14 22:36:51

There was even a caveat on the lunchtime news today.

I think the 'distressing' images should be post-watershed.

Or should the watershed just be abolished?

PacificDogwood Tue 21-Jan-14 22:38:22

Yes, that's my point: the words, if paid attention to, are just as/more upsetting.

I could understand a kind of 'water shed' even for news.
It's the warning before images that strikes me as.... superfluous? silly? patronising? Not sure.

The recent Yewtree arrests and then trials have been reported in the morning and we've had to field hurried explanations about 'Mummy, what is a paedophile?" at half 7 while trying to get 4 kids and 2 adults up and out of the house.

Is this another curse of 24 hr news reporting?

maillotjaune Tue 21-Jan-14 22:41:52

I have always wondered that too. I get more news from Radio 4 and 5 than anywhere else at the moment and I think if a programme is covering torture in, say, Sri Lanka then the content is going to be unpleasant / upsetting. The descriptions I heard were graphic enough to still upset me a month later. But torture is unspeakably terrible and I just wonder why there is a warning half way through the item.

I know you were talking about Syria but I've not been in much today and haven't caught up with the latest beyond a quick radio news.

Having any news on with children around (except Newsround) is problematic at the moment as there is a limit to how much I want to discuss DLT etc with a 10 and 9 year old.

maillotjaune Tue 21-Jan-14 22:43:02

X post - slow typing

PacificDogwood Tue 21-Jan-14 22:45:39

Thanks for everybody's thought btw.

maillotjaune, no, no, this is not about Syria specifically - it's always bothered me.
It could be anything else with upsetting content, say, a murder or child abuse or anything at all.

I just realised I did not really ask a AIBU, so here goes: AIBU to think that warning about 'upsetting images' in news reporting are unnecessary when it is clear that the news story is upsetting?"
Hm. Not very succinct blush.

maillotjaune Tue 21-Jan-14 22:56:38

Yes, most of what makes it into major news bulletins is depressing at best so it seems unnecessary to single out individual pieces.

Off topic a bit but the point about shielding children from news is really tricky. I find it easier to discuss a war in a far away country than sexual abuse cases closer to home because the former feels less of a potential threat to them.

Rosencrantz Wed 22-Jan-14 03:58:34

I always thought it was a disclaimer to fall back on when idiots complain.

In the same way they get out of trouble by giving a flashing lights warning in case someone has a bad reaction.

scaevola Wed 22-Jan-14 07:23:45

Adults who want more explicit news broadcasts can use the 24 hour channels.

What is broadcast on BBC1 (as publicly finded channel) needs different consideration. Even though that channel has removed it's children's programming, it is still a family channel with a mixed schedule designed to have broad appeal to all ages.

I think it should observe the watershed.

As should ITV (similar mixed age and family schedule) and Ch4 (partly publicly funded, though main news broadcast is a little later at 7pm)

Birdsgottafly Wed 22-Jan-14 10:57:07

We process images more than words. Images have a greater effect on the brain and emotions/thought patterns.

I was given nightmares after watching the bombing of Hiroshima aged around eight. What I had ever read, or heard did not compare with the images.

I read and watch horror, I deal with child abuse in my work, but once by accident I clicked on a link whilst researching safe stuff for my DD to watch on YouTube about W11.

It was of a burned, but alive, baby, I was reduced to tears, the image has stayed with me, so have the images of China's Baby Dying Rooms and other stuff.

Writing this I can picture the Chinese Girl toddler that was left to die in the street, we know these things happen, but once you see an event it affects and changes us.

We have little control over these events, we need to know about them, so we can get involved with political campaigns etc, but there is little point in watching them and being unable to sleep that night (for example).

I feel the same about animal suffering.

It should be the viewers choice if they continue to watch.

NewtRipley Wed 22-Jan-14 16:07:53

I agree with that scaevola

and also


PacificDogwood Wed 22-Jan-14 19:17:20

Yes, I think that's right: we process visual stimuli in a more visceral way and there is a discussion to be had about whether distressing images in the context of news need to be shown at all (I'd argue, yes) or only after the watershed (yes again).

It's the warning that irks me - it's distressing news; surely that's enough 'warning' that the pictures might be in keeping with what's being reported?

Fwiw, I don't watch horror because I struggle to see distress or fear as entertainment - I know people like to be scared witless in the safe context of a scary movie, but I just don't (DH had to watch Saw on his own grin).
I don't object to news reporting of distressing things, because they are real. And we need to know. And I'd argue because we visual stuff is very 'direct' reporting, we need the images. And we can avoid them by turning TV off/turning head away as soon as the newsreader says 'There's has been widespread reports of torture' or '500 people amongst them children were killed by a gas attack' - no need to say a weasely 'the following images may be distressing'. Just daft IMO.

Bowlersarm Wed 22-Jan-14 19:23:41

OP, I'm really pleased to get the warnings. I am incredibly squeamish. I avoided all these news reports on tv because they were preceded by 'the following images may be upsetting' warning. Then i was in the car listening to the news and the first thing their guest speaker was saying, without warning, was about how a lot of the men were tortured by having their eyes gouged out, and body parts cut off.

I really wished I had a warning so I could have switched off.

TheRealAmandaClarke Wed 22-Jan-14 20:23:19

birdsgottafly I read your post almost by accident. I had a sense I would find it upsetting. I am now struggling to remove the image of your description from my mind.

I think you have a point pacific. But I don't mind having a warning. Personally I try to avoid too much news as I think it gets me quite down tbh.
Also, I think children are often far more upset by listening to/ seeing the news than we think. I often have to remind DH not to listen to the news when ds and dd (still weeny) are in the room.

TheRealAmandaClarke Wed 22-Jan-14 20:25:20

Yes bowlersarm I would like a warning for all of it.
A few years ago I was reading the Sunday times. There was a piece that I found terribly distressing. It still preys on my mind and I have not read a newspaper since.

Bowlersarm Wed 22-Jan-14 20:43:06

Amanda I guess as adults it is inevitable that we learn of horrific things happening to men/women/children/animals that we would rather not know. Sometimes I think that the least we can do is hear about it if they are actually going through it.

But then I think we can't shoulder the suffering of the whole of mankind, we have enough to worry about it, so really, I'd rather avoid hearing about it day in, day out. If you are a news follower then it's pretty depressing. Exhausting reports of deprivation and torture.

And i would like to have a warning, so I can opt out, just for now if I want to.

PacificDogwood Wed 22-Jan-14 21:17:59

I completely understand why/how somebody might want to understand horrible news stories when they are not in a robust state of mind - there is a number of world events over the years that will stay with me for ever. And I don't think I'll ever 'get over' visiting a concentration camp - but I think that is how it should be.

But the fact remains - these things went/go on and much as avoiding exposure to them is a legitimate act of self-protection I think in a news program they need to be there.
Otherwise all news will descend to the level of 'human interest stories' and fluff.

Bowlersarm Wed 22-Jan-14 21:20:56

Well, for me, I'm pleased they do have the policy to say 'the following images may be upsetting' so I can switch over, and not watch.

PacificDogwood Wed 22-Jan-14 21:23:52

Fair enough - on this particular issue I am fully prepared to be told IABU smile.

It grated with me yesterday - the juxtaposition of me sitting in my warm living room, fed and watered, kids safely in bed, but I needed to be 'warned' that the images of people who'd been tortured to death might distress me. Well, boohoo to me <cross>.

I get v angry with the state of world sometimes.

Bowlersarm Wed 22-Jan-14 21:33:31

I sort of understand what you are saying. We are lucky. Our world is cosseted. We have no idea the horrors some people are going through. They are actually living, and dying through it. Except we do, we see pictures. But can only imagine, we don't have to experience it.

Except who knows what's round the corner for any of us? Me or mine may be killed, raped, murdered, mugged, assaulted. We may be touched by horrors we have no idea of yet. I just feel that I don't want to be saturated by everybody else's horrific experiences, all the time, day in day out. And I would like a warning, if I'm not feeling up to it.

Oh, I'm rambling. I'm watching Crimewatch - that's giving me the heebeejeebies grin

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