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Wednesday, 6 November 2019

The only winners from TV debates are the broadcasters

I'm not a fan of TV debates in which the party leaders are encouraged to sneer and bark at each other like bare knuckle boxers. Inevitably these things are designed by broadcasters deeply biased towards the metropolitan political establishment, a social state in which the broadcasters have a privileged supremacy. The events are designed to show how powerful and important are the broadcasters, and how trivial our political leaders. Silly little bar stools, demeaning sets and intellectually inadequate presenters with little understanding of democracy and frequently an inability to chair either effectively or impartially the debate make the things a spectacle like those in which secret incestuous caravan-park relations are revealed before a studio audience. TV debates are all about the broadcasters.

'All politics is local' is not an aphorism understood by the BBC, ITV or Sky. As far as they're concerned, all politics is centred around SW1. For two years they've given us the bear pit of College Green, with its mentally-ill ranters and painted fools in the background, and a primitive forest of flags waving above the outdoor stages, a contrived palio of conflict designed to drive up the political temperature and crowd-out sense and reason from political debate. It's all about spectacle, about a gladiatorial knock-about. I'm sure that the parliamentary authority has offered a score of times to site temporary portacabins for the broadcasters on the river terrace and have been spurned - they want extremist behaviour, they want the threat of violence and they want noise, fear and the mob. It is the broadcasters more than anyone else who have whipped up the death threats, spittle and assaults on MPs and have deepened the division in the country. Do we really trust them to act any different in designing TV debates?

It is a truism that the best way to treat the broadcasters is to deprive them of the oxygen of publicity. To refuse to play their game. As Channel Four news has found to its cost. This is the most important election for almost a century - do we really want to contrive with the establishment TV barons in turning it into a game show?

And as any fair televised punch-up must include both the illiberal anti-democrats and BrexitCorp® I suggest that only making the nonsense both fair and equitable and agreeing a format that takes the heat, steam and hate out, in effect making the four-way debate a quiet, considered debate with no yowling studio audience and no black-tee shirted security guards to restrain the studio mob from attacking the guests is the only sensible way ahead.


Stephen J said...

What I don't get is what is the point, since nobody is ever allowed to complete a sentence, let alone an answer?

The best interviewers are on the internet, the broadcasters are missing a trick. Either that, or they could learn that if they just stfu for a second their interviewee will damn them-self, all on their own.

As for the concept of debate, it doesn't work on TV, since the relevant broadcaster always insist that their presenter is the star, and we viewers want to hear all those interruptions and received opinions rather than those that are being questioned.

And of course, what is the point of a debate anyway, if dead from the neck up tories don't get that they are being shafted, good and hard.

DeeDee99 said...

I agree with every word of this. We need hour-long, detailed, intelligent questioning of the candidates (Andrew Neil-style) not an hour of soundbites and any explanation interrupted by a presenter who has a profile to raise.

JPM said...

Yes, there's some good comment there.

As Marshall McLuhan said, "The medium is the message".

But many people are learning to see through it now, and on balance, these debates could yet serve some good purpose.

The fact that some politicians don't want to attend at all is one that we should perhaps consider.

wg said...

Well said, DeeDee99.

My must watch programme in the 70s/80s was Weekend World with the dogmatic and unrelenting Brian Walden.
30 minutes of examining an issue, and the remaining 30 minutes grilling the Minister responsible.
Panorama was another with, it seemed to me, very high standards.

But then, we had a different kind of TV then, and a different kind of politician.

I'm all for public debates - if managed properly.
It seems that everything now is trivialised and personalised, and we need even-handed, knowledgeable, and forensic questioners and adjudicators.

Our present would-be upholders of the public interest seem to be narcissistic self-servers.

Dave_G said...

The political leaning of the interviewer stands tall in any so-called debate program and it is that, if nothing else is said, that is taken away by the majority of viewers.

But such debates also have a genuine purpose and can expose rhetoric, propaganda and outright lies IF the interviewee is MADE to "answer the effing question" and not be allowed to obfuscate and worm around the subject - as they invariably do.

But on this occasion I suspect Boris would be exposed damningly if he was put up against Farage. Watching the car crash that would revolve around Labour, the LibDems and SNP would be TV comedy gold.

Yes, the TV debates might not be the right way the way given the way they are currently run but I feel it is the fact that BORIS would be destroyed by Farage that would be the main cause for any non-event.

DiscoveredJoys said...

@r_writes esq.

"Either that, or they could learn that if they just stfu for a second their interviewee will damn them-self, all on their own."

Quite so - but the interviewers have climbed to the top of the greasy pole by 'managing' the interview - they are personally committed to self advancement so add bias to the interview. This can come unstuck (see Cathy Newman's debate with Jordan Peterson) if the interviewee knows their stuff.

There are some politicians who can handle the situation and there are some (many) who cannot. What we should insist on is a level playing field, no interrupting the unfavoured for instance.

Span Ows said...

I agree with Nick...

Good and well written blog-post Raewald.

The debates are and have been in the past a copmplete waste of time. Infantilising the issues and the interviewees after which the MSM take their pick of misquotes to push their agenda.

Anonymous said...

The Oxford Union debates on YouTube are far better. That maybe a format worth following.

mikebravo said...

I have my doubts that there is a single MP in parliament that could actually hold a debate and put forth an honest opinion.
Look at the Rees-Mogg kerfuffle FFS.

As soon as they said somethin in the slightest controversial they would be crucified by the tospotmedia and induce a fit of the vapours for millions of snowflakes.

To add to that most voters are too thick to follow it anyway. Why watch that when there is an hour long special on corrie with some actor dying?

DeeDee99 said...

@wg Brian Walden was a class act as was Robin Day. Sadly, political discussion is trivialised now with "emotion" and virtue-signalling trumping facts and analysis.

The mainstream media make no attempt to actually inform the public and every attempt to manipulate them. There hasn't been one broadcast programme that has analysed Boris Johnson' proposed EU Treaty and spelled out the pros and cons in a forensic, impartial manner.

jack ketch said...

a quiet, considered debate -Raed

On TV?! NO chance, not since the smoking ban. Pipes and cigarettes were (almost) every politician's shield and sometimes sword. They gave them that vital half second 'grace' before replying. Furthermore it gave them something to do with their hands, nowadays a politician is forced to gesticulate like some foreign Johnny on Crack or risk getting caught on camera playing pocket billiards.

Anonymous said...

Looking for a bit of common sense advice.

How do you set gas mark 4 on a microwave?

Also, my microwave does not have a timer setting for 10 years.

Anonymous said...

Roy Hattersley debating Tony Benn on Panorama in the context of the first referendum. Polite and engaging. Look it up.

RAC said...

Click bait Express......
"LISTEN: Excruciating silence as Labour candidate squirms in interview about death of Blair"

Glad I read the story before cracking open the champagne.

John M said...

Of course the joke this time round is on the broadcasters as it will be on the smug politicians who are convinced that the usual cat calling and endless promises to fund stuff they all have no intention of doing is going to make any difference

This time I sense things are different. The people have quietly made up their minds what they were going to do during that year or so when Westminster disappeared up it's own arse and seemingly none of them cared for a minute what the electorate wanted.

I suspect there are going to be lots of tears in a few weeks time. Some of them (e.g. Hammond) have already seen what's coming for them and are walking the plank early to save inevitable humiliation.

Doonhamer said...

Almost off topic. The same has happened to sports commentary.
Gone are the calm, balanced and informative words of Bill McLaren, Murray Walker, Johnners, etc. Now we have screamers who tell us what we can see with our own eyes, with voices that rise an octave for every 10 yards that the ball nears one end, instead of giving additional useful information.
No background knowledge, no homework - just read the prompter and get excited.
Oh, and mangle the English language.