Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Rank amateurism

Despite my harangue on Saturday about the need to cover political ideas, Sky News has not blacklisted me. Not yet. Actually, they probably won't because each "researcher" looks at a separate list of possible contributors. Internal communication seems to be on the same level as that between NHS doctors, but that's another story.

Yesterday, I found a message on my mobile from one Mike at Sky News, asking me if I could come and take part in a discussion about EU enlargement that evening. Could I call him back. I did, got the right person at once, and said that I could probably manage that evening.

He interrupted me to ask what my views were on Turkey. I may add at this stage that to a great extent, "research" in the electronic media consists of going through lists of possible contributors, calling them to find out whether they can appear on the programme and then asking them what their views are. That's it.

This information is then passed on to the interviewer or anchorman/woman, though I do remember one programme on ITN (I think) when the communication broke down and I was faced with an angry anchorman wanting to know what I was doing there, why I was not somebody else, what was the Bruges Group and was it in favour of the EU and/or the Constitution.

Anyway, I outlined my views, which included the unsurprising assertion that I did not think this was a good idea for Turkey and , indeed, growing numbers of Turkish politicians and commentators are beginning to feel the same way, wanting European standards rather than the EU.

Throughout my comments (one minute or so) Mike kept saying OK, OK, OK, varying it from time to time, with "Cool". He went on doing this for a minute after I finished, then said: "Yeah that's great. Could you tell me who you are?"

I must admit to losing my temper. I had already had a trying morning and did not see why I should be messed around by a semi-literate teenager. Pointing out that I had been returning his call, I asked him whether he simply randomly phoned people or wanted to put together a programme. Then I suggested he found out what was happening, repeated my name and phone number, and told him to call me back. I have heard nothing.

Of course, my colleague is absolutely right about the standard of BBC discussions but I have come to the conclusion that the problem we have to deal with is not a deep-seated plot. Rather there is a mindless mind-set but, above all, there is the most shambolic incompetence. How we break through those two, I cannot even begin to imagine.

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