So, the only time I ever see the Sunday morning debate shows on the BBC (the names change but the format never does) is when I stumble on them entirely by accident. Indeed I try and avoid them like Frank Lampard presumably avoids the salads. This morning however, they were on in the gym. After watching George Osborne provide further evidence that he is a hapless dumpling, in between sets of bicep curls, I had the pleasure of watching the first few seconds of Sunday Morning Live. It was only a few seconds too. That was enough. A fat bloke had vacated the chest press and I ran for it. I couldn’t see the TV there. Bad times.
This Sunday’s show featured three intellectual heavyweights. I quote from the BBC website:
“Samira is joined by journalists David Aaronovitch and Nick Ferrari, and life coach Jenni Trent Hughes. They’ll be debating: Is squatting immoral? Should we cut foreign aid? Should older women try harder to stay on TV?”
It does sound pretty grim, doesn’t it? The idea that a fat, odious, cretinous Kelvin MacKenzie soundalike, an ex-leftie who is now an establishment arse-licker par excellence and a life coach, whatever the fuck they are can provide a balanced debate on anything is palpably absurd.
Indeed Sunday Morning Live appears to be a forum for all sorts of right-wing cranks to hold court on their pet theories. Video clips of previous episodes from the programme’s webpage include the following:
“Greed is good”
“Tax avoidance is moral” (not just ok, actually moral. Brilliant!)
“The devil is real”
“Maternity benefits should be scrapped”
It’s like something out of a nightmare. Ill-informed, publicity hungry Neanderthals providing living proof that the BBC’s innate “left-wing bias” is a fiction invented by people who think General Pinochet was a pinko.
I have no problem having right-wing voices on the BBC. In fact, they are most welcome. But in order for there to be balance there has to be someone on there to counter their lies and dissembling. And there isn’t really. To the BBC, when it comes to panel shows “left-wing” seems to mean David Aaronovitch.
In the light of this I was very surprised to read an article on Liberal Conspiracy bemoaning the lack of reasonable, rational debate at the BBC. The problem with the BBC is not, as this article suggests, that they give too much airtime to “extreme” or “unreasonable” views, such labels are largely subjective judgments that are in the eye of the beholder in any case (I would argue that it is “extreme” to defend the political status quo, for instance…..), but that it doesn’t provide a diverse spread of views. Every business voice should be matched with a trade unionist. Every right-wing commentator should be paired with someone on the left (and again, I don’t mean David Aaronovitch). Every right-wing campaign like Migration Watch or the TaxPayers Alliance should be forced to defend their views in the presence of a tax justice campaigner or an anti-racist campaigner.
‘Balance’ doesn’t mean just giving all three mainstream parties a speaker, as there is so little between them right now and there are millions of people who refuse to vote for any of them. And it doesn’t mean platforms like the appalling group of non-entities and half-wits assembled for Sunday Morning Live yesterday.
There is very little way of genuine debate on the BBC and the ideological underpinnings of this government’s agenda are put under remarkably little scrutiny. Channel 4 News, for instance, does a far better job of refuting coalition propaganda with its regular fact-checker series and reports on the realities of government policy. Considering the times we live in the failure of the BBC to provide a genuine forum for a national debate (and by necessity and in the interests of fairness that should include voices from the right whether we like it or not-they pay their license fees too…..) is a disgrace.
Although I think the Lib Con piece is wrong to suggest that strongly held and passionately articulated views should be treated with more suspicion, he/she is right to suggest that all too often people are invited on who are not the ‘experts’ they claim to be. Andrew Green isn’t an expert on migration. He is a partisan for a particular and very poisonous point of view and to suggest otherwise is dishonest.
Ditto the likes of Hitchens, Ferrari and all the other right-wing mouth-breathers who all get paid well to defend a particular agenda, something they are acutely aware of I’m sure. That’s fine. But let’s have some other people with another agenda on too. You never know, if it happens for long enough and people are exposed to another point of view the national debate might change a little.
In fact I would bet my life on it.