The television is the reason I’m involved in politics in the first place. During the run up to the war in Iraq I got tired of shouting at Blair through the 6 o clock news and did something more practical instead by helping to cause traffic jams by laying in the middle of the road with some other grumpy students. After getting a sore bum and almost getting trampled by a few dozen police horses I felt I had at least achieved something. It didn’t stop a war but it made my voice heard. Albeit briefly.
Now, seven years later and I’m shouting at the TV again. Except now it’s not shouting at ‘the man’ that’s getting my goat. (Metaphorical – I may have moved closer to the countryside but there’s been no acquisition of any livestock at chez Jenkins). No, now I’m shouting at the gogglebox because of the people that put ‘the man’ on a platform in the first place. I’ve been getting increasingly frustrated as we run up to the election with the complete lack of balance shown by our broadcasters towards the political process.
I have come to accept over the years that our commercial broadcasters will always have a leaning towards the right in some way or another and to be honest, that actually makes a little bit of sense to me – well at least I can understand how it would happen. Monsignor Murdoch owns the lions share of the broadcast and printed media in the UK so I would expect that his content would be skewed towards anyone who stands towards the right of British politics. Are you frightened about immigration? – so are Sky news! Are you of the opinion that all young people are just yobs who are high as a kite on smack while throwing bricks through windows? – ITV news are your guys… These broadcasters rely on advertising for their funding, so it’s inevitable that there will be some sort of sensationalist approach to the news. It has to be exciting or who the hell will watch?
So if you want balance – you’ll have to go to Auntie. The good old beeb. Our national broadcaster, funded by us all and the envy of the world in terms of its journalistic integrity.
It’s not easy being green.
I’m not a green voter. I don’t think Caroline Lucas (the leader of the greens) has any real coherent argument when it comes to forming a national government. I can see a glimmer of reason in what the Greens stand for at a local level but their policies on the economy, education and crime do seem to have been tacked on around their central argument of ‘We have to save our floating rock from turning nasty’. I will recycle Caroline, but I’ll never be voting for you.
A recent poll yougov poll however recently showed that nearly 34% of people would ‘consider’ voting green in an election, suggesting that environmental issues are beginning to find a platform – maybe even giving a wake up call to the ‘larger’ parties in Westminster. But did we hear about it?
At the more distasteful end of the spectrum , there good ol’ Nick Griffin, everyone’s favourite Nazi. The BNP has a support that is growing as steadily as a tenor’s waistline and yet there is little coverage of their political activity unless it is in the courtroom or there are dairy products flying about. Would I LIKE to hear what they have to say? No. It will drive me nuts, but then at least I will be able to see clearly how ludicrous voting for them would be and I can make an informed decision.
We got a glimpse of it on the recent Question time but we’re now back to them being in the shadows, which quite frankly is where they are at their most dangerous. The media torch needs to be back on the party of hate if we are going to be able to show them for what they are. Which is frustrated people desperate for some answers and lashing out because of it. Will that happen? I doubt it.
The same is true for the people in Scotland, Wales and N.Ireland. They have a real argument about the upcoming leadership debates for the Westminster election where they have been clumsily sidelined by all. Its not just the right to decide on education and health spending that’s been devolved. Apparently their voice has been too.
Thursday nights for me are becoming increasingly frustrating. Question time appears to be trying far too hard to grab viewers by ignoring the idea of balance entirely and bringing in guests who seem to have no awareness whatsoever of the issues at hand. Occasionally you’ll get a gem like the Eric Pickles event (it still makes me laugh – if you have seen it – it’ll make you chuckle – youtube’s finest) but mostly it’s turned into a ball of political fluff – with little to really write home about.
The nice lady on the BBC complaints line is now used to our Friday morning chats about the imbalance of the previous night’s panel, especially on days when the selection is made up of one red, one blue and a selection of supporters for either side. I’m sure if I made the effort we could be on first name terms now – she probably even has the form filled in for me before I call.
Why am I so bothered about it? Isn’t the argument that if we as LibDems were actually challenging to be the next government then we’d be given more airtime? Well yes, the BBC in particular has an obligation to show a balance according to support at the last relevant election – but surely that only reinforces the status quo? How will we ever get the chance to change our political system for the better unless we know what our alternative options are?
Following question time in the schedule however is the real reason for this posting and the thing that makes my blood boil. ‘This week.’
What you never saw it?
I will admit now that there are probably only about seven people in the entire country who watch ‘This week’ and they are all political nerds like me, but how the format can be justified in any way shape or form I have no idea.
Let’s leave aside the fact that’s its caricature imagery and sweeping populist reporting are a pile of tosh in terms of quality programme making. Let’s forget that its a political comment show scheduled so late that its existence can’t really be justified. And lets leave aside that in Andrew Neill we have the most sycophantic and talentless presenter ever to grace a sunbed. It is a terribly made programme, made on the cheap to make up the quota of political programming and ticking a box to justify the licence fee to the naysayers who hate auntie.
But to fly in the face of any kind of pluralism in such blatant a fashion shouldn’t be allowed. Labour are represented by Diane Abbott(did she mention she was the first black woman MP in the last three minutes or not – she must be slipping), the Tories have Michael Portillo (the reason I ended up with a hangover on 2nd May 1997). And the LibDems/Greens/UKIP/BNP/SNP/Plaid/Sinn Fein/UUP/DUP/Alliance are represented by…. Oh hold on they’re not. Because apparently UK politics is a two party affair. You’re red or you’re Blue and there’s nowt in between.
If you’re lucky enough to be invited on with your ‘little party’ issue, then you can sit and be grilled by the big boys. But don’t you dare sit on ‘their’ sofa. You’re different to them. You CAN’T be a party of government. Grr.
And Grr again.
How on earth can we possibly pretend we have been suitably informed of our options when our national broadcaster continues to give us this fictional gladitorial battle? It reflects nothing of what we see in the key battlegrounds, the three way marginals and particularly those seats outside England. It’s a ridiculous state of affairs.
This week, every week.
I phoned again this morning, registering my mark on the edexcel spreadsheet of complaints never to be actioned at Auntie’s headquarters. I’ll continue to do so and I urge anyone who gives two hoots to do so as well. Maybe whingeing and whining will get me somewhere – or maybe one week they might just hear me shouting through the TV.