How British journalism works, part 94B

Nick Robinson of the BBC demonstrates the self-awareness that he’s famous for:

Yes, Westminster’s style of politics is entirely the fault of MPs. Absolutely none of the problems with the politics in our country come from the media’s insistence on treating it all as a game or a Punch and Judy show of mutual loathing and shouting. That political journalism frequently eliminates any nuance in order to drive forward the narrative it has determined the story must be about has no bearing on the way people regard politics. There is absolutely no symbiotic relationship between a media desperate to fill air time cheaply and a political class who are desperate to appear on air as much as possible.

I’m glad Nick Robinson has made that clear.

Worth Reading 75: I was your sorry ever after

Fear and loathing in Athens: the rise of Golden Dawn and the far right – I don’t know how much it’s emphasised for the story, or if it seems worse than it is because of the focus on one angle, but Greece sounds like a country with some major problems right now.
Stephen becomes first councillor in the UK with Down’s Syndrome – Great story, and even better, the comments below are almost completely positive.
Light Entertainment – Andrew O’Hagan in the London Review of Books on the Savile scandal and the rather disturbinglight world of British light entertainment.
Conference accreditation: what do candidates think? – One for my Lib Dem readers here. Following on from Jennie’s questions to candidates, Andy Hinton polls candidates for the Federal Executive for their views on Conference accreditation.
Context is everything – Charles Stross looks at the reasons for and against protecting the environment. JUst how important are humans anyway?

And if you’re still here, why not watch this?

Local news and local elections

With the election over, I got to return to one of favourite evening pastimes (after canvassing, of course) – shouting at the TV when Look East is covering politics.

Firstly, they clearly have an issue in getting accurate information about what’s going on. Last night, their political editor reported that the Bedford mayoral contest wasn’t looking good for the Liberal Democrats, about an hour after the result of the first preference votes had been announced, showing that Dave Hodgson was leading the race, and about five minutes after I’d seen the first mentions on Twitter that he’d won re-election by a clear majority.

Yes, there were elections going on all over the region yesterday, but for the BBC’s regional political editor to not be up to speed with what’s happening in the region’s largest local election? That’s really not delivering what I think you should expect from regional political coverage.

But I think that reveals a much larger problem with the way local politics is covered, which follows the lead of their national colleagues in assuming that the elections are merely an expression of people’s views on national politics. Thus, the fact that Liberal Democrats had lost seats in North Norfolk, while we in Colchester held our position was put entirely down to the different attitudes towards the Government of Norman Lamb and Bob Russell. The idea that people might have been voting with regard to local issues wasn’t even discussed as a possible explanation of why the votes might have gone the way they did.

I’m not denying that people’s local votes aren’t influenced by the national political situation – though there’s a long history here in Colchester of results going against the national trends – but surely we should expect that our local news programmes might actually make an effort to discover what the local issues are, rather than just blindly assuming that no one cares who runs their local council and are just having their say about the Westminster beauty contest?

BBC adapting The Man In The High Castle

Some very interesting TV news has come out today – it’s been announced that the BBC are to produce an adaptation of The Man In The High Castle, produced by Ridley Scott from a script by Howard Brenton.

While there’s some justifiable excitement about the director of Blade Runner returning to work on a story by Dick – though just as a producer this time – I find the idea of Brenton writing it very interesting. Responsible for some of the best early episodes of Spooks, he’s that vanishing breed, a very political writer working in British TV and should provide a very interesting take on the original work.

The trouble with many adaptations of Dick’s stories and novels is that they take the surface elements and ignore the deeper meanings. It’s somewhat understandable in that those surface elements do tend to have more originality packed into them than the entire annual output of several channels, but as a long-time fan of Dick’s work, it’s sad to see his examinations of the nature of reality and the question of just what it means to be human thrown aside in favour of a few more explosions and a good chase scene. Having a writer like Brenton on board gives me hope that the adaptation will be more than just ‘what if the Nazis and Imperial Japan ruled the US? Wouldn’t that be weird?’ The reason why the novel is so well-regarded is that it works on so many levels, and it’d be a shame for the adaptation to lose any of them.

Trafigura, again

Via all sorts of places, a video they don’t want you to see on the BBC:

I’m beginning to think that Carter Ruck have changed their purpose to become a performance art collective dedicated to interpretations of the Streisand Effect. Or that they’re a group of Streisand haters who want to see it renamed – perhaps this is a wholly new 21st century phenomenon of corporate culture jamming in an effort to get their name attached to a popular culture phenomenon?

Another British political tradition ends

There used to be a set procedure for discussing a leaders’ debate in General Elections: the leader of the opposition would propose it a couple of months before the election, the Prime Minister would say nothing but their spokespeople would umm and ahh over it, the leader(s) of the third party would then chime in and demand to be involved, various possible conditions for a debate that no one could agree on would be floated around, and then the whole idea would just wither away as the election campaign itself took over the headlines.

Now, it seems that we’re actually going to get not just one, but three, with Brown, Cameron and Clegg involved in all of them. Given that Sky have pledged to ’empty chair’ anyone who doesn’t want a debate, and that the three broadcasters have agreed to co-operate on this, it’s hard to see how anyone can get out of it now that it has a momentum.

So now, I find myself wondering what they’ll be like. Someone at ITV is probably trying to work out if there’s a way to get Cheryl Cole and/or Simon Cowell as the moderator for their debate, while I also expect that someone at the BBC is hard at work on a way to involve Twitter, Facebook and whatever internet fad emerges over the next six months in the process as part of their usual down-with-the-kids attempt to look ‘relevant’. As his contract seems to require him to appear on every BBC programme at some point, I wouldn’t rule out John Barrowman as the moderator either.

In fact, it might well be Sky that stage the most traditional and ‘dull’ debate, with Adam Boulton asking carefully neutral questions, while the three leaders stand behind their podiums to answer. They’ve got their triumph by making these debates happen, and Sky One/Sky News is guaranteed one of its largest ever audiences, with no need for gimmicks. They get bracketed as one of the UK’s key broadcasters alongside the BBC and ITV, clips from their debate (with their logo stuck on) will get shown on the news and in the papers regardless of what they do, so why take risks? Leave that to the others, and instead just sit back and enjoy the ratings.