‘Matt’ from York is ill-informed and angry but I don’t blame him I blame the BBC (and the Daily Mail) video

I'm angry about something I read in the Daily Mail and now I want to shout at someone on 5 Live

I’m angry about something I heard on the radio…but I don’t know why

One of the fundamental reasons why the BBC is considered to be a global leader in terms of quality programming is its historical adherence to certain standards set out by Lord Reith during his tenure as Director General of the BBC in the 1930’s.

Wikipedia describes ‘Reithianism’ as  requiring programmes to “include an equal consideration of all viewpoints, probity, universality and a commitment to public service. It can be distinguished from the free-market approach to broadcasting, where programming aims to attract the largest audiences or advertising revenues, ahead of – and, in practice, often contrary to – any artistic merit, impartiality, educative or entertainment values, that a programme may have.”

Unfortunately in recent years various parts of the BBC have decided that chasing large audiences necessitates broadcasting at the level of the lowest common denominator and have apparently eschewed these core principles. Having joined their independent broadcasting competitors in a race to the bottom has meant that we have come to expect having to listen to the crass and the foolish because, well, “everyone has a right to be heard”.

The callers to daytime radio phone-in shows  are depressingly stereotypical and are notorious for their apparent stupidity and extreme views.  Today listeners to Radio 5 Live’s morning call in show entitled, rather unimaginatively, ‘Your Call’ were treated to a series of ill-informed reactionary members of the public ranting, yet again, about welfare scroungers.

As with any professional call-in programme Your Call screens its callers before allowing them to vent their spleen live on air.  So how do they explain the number of  idiots for whom they offer a national platform. One caller today, ‘Matt’ (given what he said he was well advised to use a pseudonym) from York, represents the worst element of what I have come to describe as the ‘Daily Mail Brit’.  Like the opinion sheet after which this group has been named, a typical DMB is ill-informed, illogical and lacks empathy.

Audio © BBC

If you are unable to view the youtube clip you will find the links to both a clip of Matt’s stint on air where he ‘debated’ with Stephen Timms (followed by a final numpty named Derek from the end of the show) and a further link to the full hour-long episode via BBC iPlayer here: Clip: http://t.co/7KiOzXMq0L / Whole episode: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b036vyhn

In his cack handed attempt to debate with Labour MP Stephen Timms about the welfare cap Matt expressed his ire even though it was clear from the outset that his opinion was formed without the bother of having to waste time researching any objective facts.

I wonder what parts of the Reithian principles allowing the foolish to vent on national radio addresses? I am sure that Matt made other listeners angry but just because there are lots of irate ill-informed people in the general population doesn’t mean that they should have a national broadcasting platform.

Objective facts are increasingly absent from debate these days and not only on the BBC. You may wonder however why Rachel Burden chose not to question or correct basic elements of Matt’s or Derek’s ‘theses’ given that they were clearly gleaned from The Daily Mail or some other ‘faux’ news service and were plainly wrong or only partially accurate.
Here are a few facts that might have been mentioned and will be the subject of a fuller blog entry in the near future. In the OECD’s recent but pre-welfare cap assessment of the generosity of welfare systems in Europe, of the 24 countries assessed across 18 different measures the UK came 24th (yes last) in 11 and no higher than 20th in a further 5 of the remaining 7.  We do ok for large families in work but for out of work benefits we are worse than rest of Europe including Poland, Lithuania, Ireland….. I think you get the point.
In my opinion, it was incumbent on Rachel Burden to offer this data, or some other objective information to bring balance to the conversation, during her show but I imagine editorially it doesn’t add to the potential vitriol that might spew forth if the likes of Matt are left to stew in the juices of their misinformed prejudices.   Things are not this dire across the board and James O’Brien’s late morning show on LBC is an excellent example of a journalist presenter that researches the objective data and tries to bring balance and, importantly, reason to the debate.
The likes of Matt and Derek would not have had much air time on Mr O’Brien’s show I suspect.  As an indication of James O’Brien’s excellent journalistic credentials here’s a relevant extract from his blog on the issue of the welfare cap (formatting changed by me):”Public approval ratings for a policy designed to ‘cap’ the amount of benefits any household can receive at £26,000 are sky high. We love it. We really, really love it.  So, from a purely pragmatic point of view, the question of what it is supposed to achieve is pointless. It is, obviously, supposed to secure sky high approval ratings. So it’s working. Any further analysis is silly. The whistle has been blown. The dogs are howling.
But here’s a dissenting voice and it belongs to Eric Pickles, of all people. A leaked letter from him to Cameron contended that the cost of absorbing the homelessness and temporary accommodation expected to ensue would probably exceed any net savings the scheme would make.
Those savings, by the way, are estimated to peak at £110million – no small sum but hardly a significant part of an overall Welfare budget annually in excess of £200billion.So it is unlikely to save any money, may even cost some, and when Duncan Smith claimed that the policy was pushing people into work, the Government’s own statistics agency rebuked him. His response today? “I believe I am right,” – a statement, surely, as rooted in truth and evidence as R Kelly’s claim that “I believe I can fly”.So it won’t save any money and has not been shown to have encouraged anyone into work. But it remains the Government’s single most popular policy. Why?”  (James O’Brien’s full post may be found here: http://www.lbc.co.uk/james-obriens-blog-3514/entry/81/9670).  Irate people may make ‘good’ radio because its popular for a certain type to enjoy the ranting of (occasionally) the borderline insane but it makes Radio 5 Live and Your Call in particular simply an aural version of the Daily Mail.
The BBC should aim higher and be better than that!

Lord Reith must be spinning in his grave.
*A note for lawyers:

For the purposes of the government’s use of statistics my definition of a lie is when in full knowledge that the official figures demonstrate a certain version of the situation, government minister’s suggest the data shows something completely different. It is my view and that of many others that IDS and Grant Schapps in particular are guilty of misrepresenting data about the effects of government policy in recent months. These widely reported misrepresentations are in most objective commentators assessment “unethical”. IMHO, they are dishonest and morally indistinguishable from lies. On that basis Iain Duncan Smith, Grant Schapps and others have been repeatedly guilty of lying to the British public. Their lies have been reported ad nauseam in the media and it is clear from various phone-in shows and other sources of public opinion that these government lies have been widely accepted as true honest statistics.


2 thoughts on “‘Matt’ from York is ill-informed and angry but I don’t blame him I blame the BBC (and the Daily Mail) video

  1. Quite right… the BBC’s obligations don’t just apply to Newsnight. Any daytime show, any radio show should meet the same standards.


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