Monday, 26 October 2009

Right idea, wrong show

I watched Question Time on BBCi over the weekend to see what all the fuss was about (when you have a 12 week old baby the scheduled 10.30 start to watch it live is asking a bit too much).

All my instincts in the lead up to the programme were that the BNP’s participation protected important elements in our basic rights – namely freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Now, I’ve changed my mind.

There was little freedom on show here. Instead we were treated to an hour’s bear baiting which did little to forensically analyse, dissect and reveal BNP policies. Those with enough grey in their hair will remember a debate on the future of the monarchy held by ITV about 15 years ago in front of a live studio audience which descended into farce with invited guests being shouted down and barracked mercilessly. Last week’s Question Time was almost a re-run.

There is another point here. The BBC keeps getting it badly wrong. If it isn’t Question Time it’s a shoddy piece of Ryanair reporting on Panorama which managed to do the almost impossible by getting public opinion behind Michael O’Leary. Or the deliberate scheduling of Strictly Come Dancing against X-Factor. Now I don’t watch either (I’m a Radio 5 Live 6-0-6 man) but I find it difficult to believe that it is the role of a subsidised state broadcaster to deliberately try and reduce the audience figures (and, crucially, advertising revenue) for a commercial broadcaster.

There has been underground debate, mainly confined to the pages of The Guardian, about the future and role of the BBC. If it carries on the way it is, that debate won’t stay underground much longer.


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