'Worthy and dull' is the print media's verdict on the BBC's
political output. The BBC has even been blamed for the dreadful turnout
at the last General Election having 'bored voters to death.' The BBC is
rightfully concerned about the quality of its political coverage, and is
currently reviewing it.
But to blame the Corporation for the public's indifference to the
political process is preposterous. It is always easy to 'shoot the
messenger', which is why spin doctors get so much stick, but the culprit
here is not the BBC but the politicians.
We know the growth of the 'sound-bite' is not just the politicians'
fault, but is a result of the need of the TV 'package' to be short. The
fact remains, however, that almost every political interview on TV or
radio sends us straight for the 'off' button. It's no wonder that the
ratings for BBC political shows plummeted during the last election -
politicians refused to answer questions and just spieled out the agreed
'line.' I still can't believe that politicians of all parties think that
they are being clever by refusing to answer simple questions. Jeremy
Paxman may upset MPs, but he is a hero with the punters because he
treats the politicians with disdain if they refuse to answer.
I've now had the experience of interviewing politicians myself on 5 Live
and I can honestly say that it's the most frustrating job I have ever
had to do. Even more frustrating than having to answer questions every
day for five years about when Gordon Brown was getting married.
There is no doubt that Labour Ministers are the most deadly dull to talk
to because they still haven't realised that there isn't a media
conspiracy against them, so refuse to ever go even slightly 'off
message.' Most of the Tories and Lib Dems are just naturally boring so
for the best entertainment value you have to turn to the Labour
'rebels.' A new one to have 'come out' is Nottingham North MP Graham
Allen, who has been sidelined for doing nothing more than thinking that
Blair was a megalomaniac. He is now willing to go on any TV and radio
show and tell us just that.
Another Labour backbencher who gives good value is Medway MP Bob
Marshall-Andrews. He not only attacks the Government on a regular basis
but is also humorous about it.
Alastair Campbell is forever berating the BBC for giving airtime to
these Labour rebels, claiming that they are unrepresentative. He does
have a point but the fact is they are ten times more entertaining than
the boring farts he would have us listen too.
I hope the BBC doesn't blame itself too much for the poor ratings it
gets for politics because programmes such as On the Record at least try
to put politicians on the spot. What we really need are more shows that
take a more irreverent look at politics and refuse to give boring
politicians a platform.