Media: Are We Boring You? ; the Promised Revolution in the BBC's Political Coverage Has Not Materialised. Good Thing Too, Says STEVE RICHARDS - Politics Isn't Meant to Be Fun
Richards, Steve, The Independent (London, England)
The media brouhaha surrounding the BBC's latest review of political coverage created a false sense of excitement, rather like some of the BBC's reporting of politics itself. Such was the frenzy, it would have been no surprise if Mickey Mouse and Anthea Turner had become joint presenters of a new programme. Instead, when the review was unveiled last week we got Jeremy Vine, or rather, more of Jeremy Vine with some incremental changes.
BBC executives are in a state of perpetual agony about political coverage, partly for the noble reason that some of them care about making the subject more accessible; partly because the BBC - never knowingly understaffed when it comes to political coverage - has plenty of middle managers with time on their hands to agonise. Each review begins with lofty, but ill- defined, objectives and ends with relatively small changes after months of expensive hand-wringing and rows with politicians.
I was involved in the margins of a previous review as a BBC political correspondent in the mid-1990s. After a year or so of meandering meetings, the conclusion was reached that there should be more "politics outside Westminster". The only practical consequence was that a BBC political correspondent, Lance Price, toured the country producing the occasional two-minute report from places such as the Isle of Skye in which "real people" expressed their worries about Government or Opposition policy. Every now and again the cry would go up in the BBC's vast Westminster HQ: "Where's Lance?" No one seemed to know. He returned after a few months looking tanned and relaxed, and went to work for Tony Blair. The BBC's Westminster bureaucrats declared the entire exercise a triumph, an illustration of a new way of reporting politics.
The BBC is not alone in its agonising. Not long ago, I had lunch with an executive from Channel Four. He was interested in exploring new ways of reporting politics. No, that is not quite correct. He himself was fascinated by what was happening in the Cabinet, the relationships, the policy implications and the future of the Tories. That is what we talked about for an hour and a half. Only at the end did he say he wanted to create a new politics programme out of London in which "ordinary people" would take part. This would attract "ordinary people" to watch. Clearly, this executive was not gripped by the contents of such a programme, or he would have spent less time asking me what was happening at Westminster. It is just that he thought he should be doing something different, that others would love it even if he would not. Thankfully, this programme was never made, although I seem to remember reading a script in which one introduction went along the lines of: "Joining me now are a lorry driver from Portsmouth, a ballerina from Keighley and a Conservative MP."
A fellow political columnist had a similar lunch with a leading member of an independent production company. Towards the end he was told that the company had a commission to find new ways of reporting politics. The company had come up with an idea to travel around Britain speaking to "ordinary people". Was my fellow columnist interested? He was. Then he was told that the idea was for him to interview the "ordinary people" on horseback. …
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Publication information: Article title: Media: Are We Boring You? ; the Promised Revolution in the BBC's Political Coverage Has Not Materialised. Good Thing Too, Says STEVE RICHARDS - Politics Isn't Meant to Be Fun. Contributors: Richards, Steve - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: September 24, 2002. Page number: 10,11. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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