Monday, 16 July 2018

Change for the better?

The Beeb have announced changes to political programming on TV. I wonder if they will be for the better?

Certainly, UK television needs better political reporting. Like our newspapers, even the bits that like to think of themselves as responsible grown-up reporting are frustratingly lazy and present a narrative that has its flaws and its sparkle but is crucially devoid of attention span. 

On the left, think back to when Clegg became the leader of the Liberals in 2007 and he announced his aim was to double the number of seats the party had. Never mind what became of that for now: nowhere was there any analysis of what that would actually mean for the party and for politics. A simple grasp of maths tells you that Liberal force with a quarter of the seats in the Commons rather than an eighth would have meant a hung parliament or one of the Establishment parties being deposed from their cosy duopoly. Exploration of what that might mean prior to May 2010: nil.

Moving our lens to the right, at the start of this decade when Ed Miliband became Labour leader and sought to capitalise on the wave of unpopularity of the increase in student tuition fees from £3500 to £6000-9000, the BBC lacked even enough attention span to challenge this with the fact that a few months earlier he had stood on a manifesto that promised to raise them to £15,000 a year and beyond.

And continuing on our rightward trajectory, the BNP were cheerled to popularity by a media that thought they were exciting, newsy and edgy and was happy to help them to a brace of MEPs, and that for UKIP did the same in spades. Society paid and will continue to pay a price for those things, but not the people who enabled it.

I am perhaps kidding myself but the rose-tinted memories of Brian Walden's forensic interview approach on Weekend World in the 80s would surely have had the kind of background reading done thoroughly that seems to be missing now.

It's not just a problem at the BBC, as we saw last year when Channel 4's homophobic news anchor was left to run riot despite the station's pretensions to liberal values. And as for Sky Fox News...

The Beeb are determined to cut expenditure. That's going to happen through cutting broadcast hours. Surely better to save through getting rid of the deadwood presenters. The airtime is all there in the digitally multiplexed broadcast world, after all.

A press release from Auntie promising a shift to a more "conversational, unstuffy approach" that has less screen time and drops the party conference season from the roster doesn't sound like one that will lead to the kind of paying attention we need from our political reportage class.  If anything the reverse. Go on, Beeb, prove me wrong.

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