Thursday, August 11, 2005

What Channel 4 didn’t want you to know about Nottingham

This text is lifted unaltered from a press statement by Nottingham City Council. I'd have linked to it, but for some reason, they've not put it on their website.

(update 17.8.05: It's here now)

I've been consistantly astonished by the way that The City I Love has been defamed in the press in recent years, and this sums it up.

On Tuesday night Channel 4 broadcast a programme called The Best and Worst Places To Live in the UK in which Nottingham was ranked second bottom. Channel 4 claims its rankings were based on five key categories – crime, education, employment, environment and lifestyle. The programme made several exaggerated references to gun crime in Nottingham.

Apart from a brief mention of Nottingham being a great night out and a Mecca for developers, it said nothing about education, employment, environment and lifestyle in our city.

But if the programme misrepresented life in Nottingham, Channel 4’s pre-show publicity told lies about Nottingham – some of which were perpetuated in subsequent media coverage of the programme. The suggestions that Nottingham had nearly one gun-related incident a day last year and that Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre deals with more gunshot wounds than any other hospital in the UK were themost ridiculous. They are also wholly untrue.

So, for the record, here’s what Channel 4 could have told you about Nottingham but decided they didn’t want you to know.

Nottingham did NOT have nearly one gun-related incident a day last year. This is a work of fiction. According to official Home Office statistics, for the whole of Nottinghamshire, not just Nottingham, there were 233 recorded firearms offences in 2003/04. The level of such offences, per head of population (which takes into account differences in the size of cities) was 52% higher in Merseyside, almost twice as high inthe West Midlands, and more than twice as high in Greater Manchester and London.

In terms of guns being fired, in the 2004 calendar year there were 59 recorded incidents of a firearm having been discharged in the whole of Nottinghamshire, not just Nottingham. And the Queen’s Medical Centreactually dealt with 19 gun and air rifle casualties in 2004. So far this year there has been one fatal shooting in Nottingham.

Nottingham has one of the top rates of improvement in GCSE attainment in the country. The number of pupils in Nottingham gaining five good GCSE grades has climbed from 26% in 1998 to 38% in 2004. To build on this progress, more than £143 million is due to be invested in building new secondary and special schools and modernising existing ones in Nottingham as part of the national Building Schools forthe Future initiative. The vision includes three more schools becoming city academies and a new special school.

Nottingham’s two universities are also among the most popular in the country and, together with local further education colleges, they attract 55,000 students to the city – giving Nottingham the fourth largest student population in the country.

Nottingham has one of the highest rates of job creation in the country. It is – or has recently become –the home of several major UK employers, including Boots, Experian, Capital One and the Inland Revenue. Unemployment rates in Nottingham have halved over the past 10 years and the city’s Gross Value Added output per head of population is well above the national average.

Nottingham has one of the most pedestrian-friendly and least congested city centres in the country, with the soon-to-be refreshed Old Market Square at its heart. The city has been commended as a world leader in restricting traffic growth and its integrated public transport system, which includes a comprehensive busnetwork and Britain’s newest tram system, is acknowledged as one of the best in the UK.

Wollaton Park, a 500-acre deer park, just three miles from Nottingham city centre, was recently ranked thesecond best urban park in Britain by The Independent newspaper.

No fewer than six of Nottingham’s parks have Green Flag status from the Civic Trust, more than in anyother part of the East Midlands. The city also has Sherwood Forest on its doorstep.

Nottingham is consistently ranked among the top five shopping centres in the UK, with many top names choosing the city for their stores, including Nottingham’s own Paul Smith.

Nottingham is the cultural and commercial capital of the East Midlands. Its vibrant, cosmopolitan city centre is a first choice destination for business, entertainment and nightlife.

The creation of pedestrian-friendly streets sprinkled with pavement cafes and the transformation of the Lace Market and canalside into stylish residential and commercial quarters have given 21st Nottingham adistinct European ambience.

Nottingham has several acclaimed theatres staging top shows, plus the Nottingham Arena at the National Ice Centre. It is also home to Trent Bridge, scene of the forthcoming Fourth Test between England and Australia in the delicately-poised Ashes series.

As a postscript, I'd suggest that Nottingham's problem is that it doesn't have a strong civic voice. This is partly because it doesn't have some of the sense of insecurity that other cities have.

Lazy journalists wouldn't get away with slagging Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, or Leeds off the way Nottingham is.

That's why they do it. It's almost worth suggesting that the PR departement at the City Council should start press releasing every incidence of crime that happens elsewhere. One mischeivous freind suggested to me that they should just pick another city and pay a PR company to rubbish it a bit. With the standard of modern journalism, that ploy would actually work to Nottingham's advantage. Not that I'd seriously suggest it mind....

Nottingham needs to start speaking up for itself more loudly - the fact that this statement (above) isn't even on the website speaks volumes. I know that too much confidence in your PR can backfire (scroll down for an example...) but a little bit won't hurt, surely?

They'd never have got away with this in Brian's day....

(By the way, there is a prize for the first smartarse who puts "Why don't you move back there then?" in my comments box. And it's not the massively hubristic new Forest away shirt).

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