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.


  1. Is it wrong to heartily agree with this subject?

    It's certainly the reason why not only Question Time, but also party politics in general turn off so many people.

    In conclusion, Bob Dylan either did or did not deserve a 70th birthday.

  2. David, you probably had something very similar in London, in the late 80s we had Central Weekend Live, broadcasting from their Nottingham studios. The object of the exercise was to divide a (very much) live studio audience comprising two diametrically opposed factions: at 10.00pm, after filling their boots with free alcohol, and subjecting them to 30 minutes of a 'warm-up man', Nicky 'I'm on your side, honest' Campbell would swagger into the studio with a roving microphone to light the blue touch paper and watch the sparks. Take it from me, there were sparks. And thus the template for confrontational (ugly) TV was released.

  3. When I heard about Linehangate my first thought was your blog where you said that when you are asked to do things like this you say 'tell me what you want me to say and I'll tell you if I'll to say it.' The Linehan incident certainly underlines that it is the right approach. Either that or take a leaf out of Zammo's book and just say no.

  4. The Linehan thing is desperation for content added to poor journalism. Fact of the matter is that whether he should or shouldn't have adapted the film into a play is just plain not interesting. Trying to cobble together six minutes of radio about that shows desperation to fill the hours, and woeful journalistic instinct. It is JUST NOT A STORY. As for QT, I saw Germaine Greer say that all girls flirt sexually with their fathers, which was a laugh because I didn't think she could make a bigger fool of herself than she did when she wrote White Fella Jump Up. I can't work out if she says these things deliberately so they'll keep asking her on shows like that, or whether she's genuinely barking at the moon.

  5. The Australian version of QT has gone one further and brought Twitter into the bearpit. Now the home audience can tweet their boos and cheers and the 'best' are displayed as captions, as a kind of running commentary on the show.