.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Should the BBC call off the rottweilers?

Over at the The Times, they report on remarks by the outgoing Director General of the BBC that it’s time for presenters to give politicians a break. Lord Hall of Birkenhead, speaking at the launch of the Edelman Trust Barometer, has lent his weight to calls for a fresh approach to political interviews, suggesting that overly aggressive encounters can contribute to public cynicism. He has suggested that journalists should grant politicians a little more space to outline their ideas.

“We’ve got to look at our part in the nature of political discourse,” he said during a debate about the erosion of trust in national institutions. “I’m a great believer in the long form political interview where you can explore at length, not in soundbites, the real policy decisions that politicians are making.”

He added: “I think our journalism needs to reflect that making decisions is difficult. It’s rarely 100 per cent that way and zero per cent that way, things are in the middle. Exploring those sort of nuances is an important part of what we should do.”

This is all very well but, at a time when Parliament has moved more towards showpiece debates and staged question session, surely it is the job of journalists and broadcasters to scrutinise and put politicians on the spot, to properly test their policies and their records. I agree with Amber Rudd and Emily Maitlis:

Lord Hall’s remarks, at the launch of the Edelman Trust Barometer, indicate that the BBC is reassessing the value of traditional “gotcha” interviews, in which presenters seek to trap ministers into gaffes or U-turns.

They come as Conservative frontbenchers continue to boycott Today on Radio 4 on the orders of Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s most powerful adviser. Last week it emerged that a think tank led by Mr Cummings proposed snubbing Today interviews as early as 2004, on the grounds that the programme exists to make politicians look stupid.

Amber Rudd, the Tory former home secretary, described No 10’s boycott of Today as disgraceful. “Trust will not be rebuilt with the public by a government avoiding scrutiny,” she told the same event.

Emily Maitlis, lead presenter of Newsnight, responded to the director-general’s call for nuanced, explorative interviews with a note of caution that interviews have a life of their own and cannot be scripted. “They’re not just a factual record of statement — we have Hansard for that. They have to be engaging, enlightening and make you want to watch on,” she told The Times.

“That doesn’t mean everything has to be a battle, far from it, but you do have to leave the audience feeling if they look away they will miss something.”

If the BBC steps back from this sort of scrutiny then it will become nothing more than a poodle of government. That will no doubt delight many Ministers but it will leave politics and political discourse worse off
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?