Tag Archives: Media

The power of the editor

A couple of years ago I read Ben Elton’s excellent ‘Dead Famous’ – a work of fiction that is clearly based on ‘Big Brother’. One of the things the book amply demonstrates is the power that programme editors have to select not only which bits of twenty four hours of tedium will make the best television, but also how we will perceive each inmate. The ‘live’ coverage of Big Brother is virtually unwatchable, since the sound is constantly muted because no-one knows what contestants may say.

I get the impression that Channel 4 is trying to sit back and take an attitude of ‘well, we didn’t say it – the housemates did’. It won’t wash. Channel 4 executives are loving the controversy. Prior to the racist comments, viewing figures for the tired show were languishing. They must have rubbed their hands at every bigotted comment.

I wonder if the loss of sponsorship from ‘Carphone Warehouse’ has hurt them enough in the pocket? I remember hearing a defence of Alf Garnett that ran along the lines of ‘he’s showing up bigots’. The trouble was that some bigots were so ignorant that they regarded Alf a their hero. The sad truth is that most bigots aren’t very bright. They’ll conclude that if it’s OK for their TV heroes to have such attitudes – it’s OK for them too.

Channel 4 could have taken a more responsible stand, and canned the offensive comments – but then, that wouldn’t have made as many people switch on, would it?

The Amazing Mrs Pritchard

Reaction from Lib Dems to The Amazing Mrs Pritchard has been mixed, but I feel that detractors are perhaps being a little harsh. The premise of the series does require us to ‘suspend disbelief’, after all if breaking the mould was that easy we’d have done it years ago! This week’s episode did lurch between tragic – when two soldiers died on a mission she had authorised – and fall off the sofa funny:

I’m the leader of the fourth biggest economy… and I haven’t got a ******* clue what I’m doing!

There were also serious issues, like Mrs Pritchard’s dilemna about sending her daughter to a deprived inner London comprehensive school.

I must confess that I loved it. If you accept that is fiction, and it couldn’t really happen – it is then interesting to ponder what we could learn from it. The ‘People’s Queen’s Speech’ was wacky, and yet I loved the idea of getting people interested in politics – and listening to their ideas. The problem with our current political landscape is that it appears to too many people to be a distant drama played out by politicians who decide policies in some remote, unfathomable way. I would love to see the BBC do one of their ‘Test the Nation’ type shows on politics. To set out some dilemnas facing this country and see what millions of people think in real time.

The storyline of ‘ordinary person gets involved in politics’ is not original. But’s it’s a storyline that almost offers scriptwriters a blank canvass. If it’s a storyline that intrigues you, I recommend ‘Dave’, a US movie in which an ordinary guy suddenly finds himself catapulted into the Whitehouse. There’s an inspiring scene about budget priorities where our hero enlists a friend with a calculator to re-evaluate why we say we cannot afford things we all agree we need.

But let’s also remember that politicians all start out as ordinary people. I do believe the majority of politicians genuinely want to make good decisions aimed at making life better for people. Perhaps the best thing about elected representatives is what also brings out the worst in them – the fact that we can remove them. Once elected, their job security is always on the line – and the fear of that makes too many MPs play safe and toe the party line. I was close to people involved in the 1997 Blair landslide. In 1997, we elected many good hearted and well meaning people. Sadly they now think more about losing their seats than about protesting that Blair sold them a pup.

What politics needs is more outspoken representatives who tell it like it is – a bit like Mrs Pritchard in fact.

Shifting Tabloids

Why is it that Fleet Street stands on a soapbox and makes authoritative pronouncements on politics for three and a half years and then falls obediently into line at election time?The Mirror, for example, was a fierce opponent of the war, running a daily ‘WMD-ometer’, accompanied by ‘off-message’ political comment on an almost daily basis. Now it is toadying up to Labour like there’d never been anything wrong…And as for the Sun with it’s ‘red smoke’ stunt; well, they’re always on the winning side because they’re allowed to change sides whenever it suits them.With a press like this – it’s a good job the BBC is at least a bastion of editorial independence (no thanks to Alastair Campbell)