Sunday, 10 June 2012

Scrutiny in public life #fail

One of the great things about Leveson is the through and incisive questioning by Robert Jay. Not only is this because Jay has a good grasp of the subject matter, its also because there is sufficient time given to properly grill the people giving evidence. I saw Evan Davis tweet this:

Which puts me to mind of the old phrase "never a truer word spoken in jest". The quality of the interviews on the BBC's flagship radio program does leave a lot of be desired. The time given to each topic is too short and the presenters can sometimes be frustrating with the line they take. I do like Evan but his questions are sometimes so long and leading I almost expect the interviewee to just respond with Yes or No.  When John Humphries is doing more features based stuff out in the field I find him thoughtful, insightful and very warm. In debates I find him annoying though. The other day they had a piece on the court deciding that ISP's have to block pirate bay. There were a lot of very important issues of net neutrality that should have been discussed but Humphies just kept shouting PORN every so often and of the two guests neither were really making the case for net neutrality (a MP and a representative of the ISP's). Blocking pirate bay was nothing to do with porn and was everything to do with protecting the interests of the film and music industry. John was clearly channelling the Daily Mail again that day.

Which brings me back to Robert Jay and proper scrutiny of those in public life. Watching Jay taking Hunt and others apart has reinforced my view that the current scrutiny we have is too poor. The select committees are choc full of party toadies and are not able to scrutinise policy effectively, the media cannot really hold ministers to account because the interviews are too short to have any meaningful debate and in quite a few cases the interviewers don't have a proper grasp of the subject matter and conduct the interview trying to simplify the complicated, very few things in life are as simple as yes or no.

What I would love to see is a weekly one hour show, one interviewer and a minister or shadow minister really getting grilled properly on one specific policy. They could really get into the detail and it would also show us how much the minister really understands the policy he or she promotes.

The problem is though, it would never happen for two reasons: First the media think we are all thick and cannot handle more than three minutes on one topic, second I doubt there are any ministers that would go on because they would be shown to be the useless, ideological automatons they really are.

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