OPINION: Politicians - not the BBC - cause apathy

'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.

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