‘Children . . . pay attention please . . . we’re going to tell you a nice story.’ It’s time to gather round and listen to the BBC, which was accused earlier this year of trivialising output after it was advised to ‘retire’ some of its traditional programmes to free slots for new ideas. Just who are these advisers? Nobody denies that the channel controllers are technically clever but do they know anything about the topics they are supposed to be covering? Perhaps they haven’t been around long enough? The Corporation’s coverage of political programmes is an illustration of its terror of seeming too intellectual. The new ‘flagship’ Politics Live is at the forefront of outstanding mediocrity which reduces the level of political discourse to that of a Joyce Grenfell nursery school. Anybody switching on to last Friday’s programme was confronted with a menagerie of guests talking over each other and giggling as various outside broadcasters were either slurping coffee or fiddling with their make-up. In another shot, viewers were treated to a vision of a young woman’s long, brightly painted nails as the presenter, dressed in a hoodie and looking sweaty and dishevelled, informed the enraptured audience that she was ‘a proper Brexitcast superfan’. It was idiotic.
Radio 4’s Any Questions was broadcast the same evening from the Stoller Hall in Manchester, an institution for gifted young musicians. Thank goodness Shakira Martin, president of the National Union of Students, was on hand to represent them and 7million other students with her political opinions, which were for the most part totally unintelligible. Presumably the BBC believed that Ms Martin, who appeared incapable of stringing a logical sentence together, could be relied upon to articulate her members’ legitimate concerns. Better still, perhaps she could be persuaded to equip herself with a dictionary and a coherent political argument.
The BBC has a mania about attracting ‘yoof’, whom it imagines are too fixated on trivia and celebrities to be bothered with critical political debate or differing viewpoints. This is as disingenuous as it is insulting. Most people have no wish to be talked down to, but treated as equals. BBC political output appears to conform to one formula: descending to ever-lower intellectual standards and presented by anybody the corporation believes conforms to its perception of what is ‘correct’ in Britain today, preferably inarticulate, incoherent and shouty. The BBC has an obligation to the public who pay for it and when it is covering something serious it should treat it as such. We deserve better.