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Friday, June 10, 2011

Graham Linehan was right

I've been away so I didn't hear the interview with Graham Linehan on the Today Programme which led to him accusing the BBC of promoting a style of debate where there are "no positions possible except diametrically opposed ones". I'm not sure it was wise to try to make that point in a live radio programme but I do sympathise with his point of view. I've been amazed at how often I get rung up to offer some anodyne views on some release or anniversary to find that the BBC have also lined up somebody whose job it is to oppose me. "On the other line, here's somebody who doesn't think Bob Dylan should have a 70th birthday" - that kind of thing.

I suppose it's inevitable that in radio and TV they confuse drama with debate. That's why I never watch programmes like Question Time. They're all about what Matthew Parris calls "boo words and hooray words". Boo words are spoken by boo people. Hooray words are spoken by hooray people. I'm particularly glad that I didn't watch last night's show in which Germaine Greer made some remarks about a link between girls' talent for flirtation and their relationship with their fathers. This seems like the kind of observation which would be almost commonplace if made round the average suburban dinner party table. It only becomes incendiary once it's voiced in the adversarial bear pit that TV favours. I don't get indignant or energised when I hear people being shouted down. I'm just embarrassed for all of us.

TV and radio don't care whether the debate creates any light. Just as long as it creates some heat.