Calling for a sense of "perspective" and "proportionality" in coverage of British youth, the BBC's Director-General, Mark Thompson, complained on Radio 4's Today on Tuesday that you could get the impression from much media coverage that Britain was a "nightmare landscape of roving bands of drunken teenagers".
The blunt truth is that, in certain parts of the country, the nightmare is all too real and the BBC has consistently under-reported it. Within 24 hours of Thompson's interview the London Evening Standard was reporting that, in London alone, five children are injured in gun or knife attacks every day. "We know we have a challenge in youth crime," said the head of the Metropolitan Police Violent Crime Unit, unveiling figures which showed that in an eight-month period 321 London children were injured in shootings.
Later on Wednesday, three teenagers were found guilty of murdering a man they kicked to death outside his home in Cheshire. Fuelled on alcohol, they turned on him with sickening, terrifying brutality when he went out to complain of vandalism in front of his house.
Nobody—not even the Daily Mail—believes these young killers are typical of British youth. But for the head of the BBC to claim that the media exaggerates the epidemic of violent crime and yobbish behaviour by teenagers (and younger) which now makes living on so many housing estates intolerable suggests he is in danger of losing the plot. Perhaps he should speak to the murdered man's family before he spouts again on something he is too insulated even to comprehend.