Thursday, January 27, 2005

Unprofessionalism rather than conspiracy

It is the contention of this blog that the dear old Beeb, the solace of our childhood and the standard bearer of British supremacy in broadcasting quality, is actually a bloated bureaucracy with its own agenda, that just happens to be seriously anti-American, anti-western, pro-EU and, generally soggy left.

Added to that is the undeniable fact that the BBC is an anomaly. It lives off public money, to wit a poll tax on TV ownership and using that money advances its own ideological agenda and “competes” in the world of broadcasting on completely unfair conditions.

There is, however, another indictment: it has become completely unprofessional. Let me relate an interesting tale.

Yesterday morning I received a phone call from BBC 24 hours, asking if I would agree to be interviewed as the Bill to implement the constitutional treaty has been published together with the proposed question for the referendum. I was invited in my guise as the Research Director of the Bruges Group, a reasonably well known organization even in BBC circles.

As usual I was asked a few questions about my precise opinions about the referendum, the constitution and the EU itself and was told that my interview will follow immediately after Mark (surname unfamiliar and therefore unmemorable to me) from the Forum for Social Europe.

As the pleasant young man who was talking to me admitted that he had never seen a copy of the Constitution for Europe, I offered to bring one and took with me the invaluable British Management Data Foundation edition.

When I arrived at Television Centre, I was rushed in to the studio, barely pausing to discard my coat and bag. I was placed next to the man who was to interview me and discuss the particular item. He turned to me and said somewhat accusingly: “You are not Mark.”

“Um, no,” – I admitted. It was useless to deny this. The fact that I was not Mark was entirely obvious. “Well, who are you?” – he continued, feverishly looking through his briefing notes on the laptop. It seems that paper and pencil no longer figure in the average BBC interviewer’s life.

I explained who I was and had to repeat so often and so loudly that I was from the BRUGES GROUP that my chap’s colleague had to glance at us reproachfully. We were, indeed, interfering with her feed.

Any reasonably experienced political journalist should have heard of the Bruges Group, whether they agreed with its euroscepticisim or not. This one had not, and introduced me eventually as being from that group of eurosceptic MPs. We do have the odd MP as a member and a few have addressed meetings. But it is not primarily a group for parliamentarians.

Furthermore, I had to explain hastily and in whispers that no, I was not in favour of Europe, whatever that might be. My interviewer had the hazy notion that the other chap, Mark, who was, in any case, in the Westminster studio, may have been against the constitution and in favour of Europe. So I must have been in favour of both. The idea that anybody might not be all that keen on either clearly had not occurred to him.

He was not interested in my copy of the constitution, having only the word referendum in his mind and not really knowing what he was talking about. Eventually I was asked whether I thought the proposed question was fair, and when I said that it was inaccurate but reasonably fair, I was allowed to explain why we had certain problems and worries about the way the referendum would be run.

Then I sat back, waiting for the questions on the constitution itself to follow. They did not. I was thanked politely and Mark was brought up on the screen. Presumably, he, too, was somewhat bewildered about this emphasis on the referendum.

As far as I could tell he was not given much time to present his case whatever it may have been either, since the only thing the particular news programme was interested in was the return of the Guantanamo four, who had quite unjustly been imprisoned for taking a walking holiday in the mountains of Afghanistan heavily armed with AK-47s, handgrenades and other suchlike hikers’ luggage.

Well, there we are. A conspiracy to keep an important subject under wraps or a completely shambolic inefficiency, unprofessionalism and ignorance?

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