22 October 2009

The BBC, the BNP and politics as entertainment

This evening, the BBC will allow the leader of Britain's racist, fascist party, the BNP, to appear on its "Question Time" programme. Whilst I appreciate that this is a deeply controversial move, I have tended to agree with those who have argued that the best way to combat this objectionable party is to expose its representatives to public scrutiny. That way - the argument goes - they will be shown in their true light and people will be able to make an informed decision as to whether to vote for them.

I was therefore particularly struck this morning by the comments of Diane Abbott. Ms Abbott is a current Labour MP and the first black woman to be elected to parliament in the UK. Moreover she is an insider in world of BBC political journalism, appearing regularly on the Corporation's "Daily Politics" programme (fronted by arch-Conservative Andrew Neil - hardly a poster-boy for balanced, impartial journalism).

Ms Abbott says that "Question Time" is the wrong platform for the BNP. She goes on (my emphases):

"If you are a black or Asian viewer tonight and you switch on the television and you see Nick Griffin on Question Time - it's not a programme that's going to scrutinise his views, it's not that sort of programme, it's politics as entertainment.

"The first time I went on Question Time was 22 years ago. People were really pleased - they didn't remember what I said but they saw a young black woman on Question Time and they thought 'Now black people are part of the mainstream'. That is the effect the BNP will get tonight, that's what they want from it, that's why they're so thrilled"

Ms Abbott's view deserves serious attention, not least of course because, as a black woman, she understands the issues at stake infinitely better than I ever could.

I suppose one might ask whether the BNP is actually elevated to the British political mainstream by its success in elections, rather than by the appearence of its representatives on the media. But the role of the BBC is more complex than that. By trivialising politics - treating it as entertainment - by directing attention to its own presenters as personalities, and by its relentless cynicism about "mainstream" politicians, the Corporation has done a great deal to create a climate which the loathsome BNP can exploit for its own malicious ends.

Politics as entertainment will not do - especially from a "public service broadcaster", funded by public money. Only mature, informed debate and scrutiny of all parties will serve the public and enhance the life of our diverse community.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home