Thursday 29 July 2010, 14:47
Is political reporting trivialising politics? Chris Addison, the stand-up comedian who plays Ollie Reeder in The Thick of It, claims it's not satire that has degraded politics but politicians and the news media.
Writing in this week's New Statesman, he says journalists and politicians should "leave the jokes to the comedians". And he singles out the BBC's Political Editor, Nick Robinson, for criticism, saying his reporting style "makes me want to bite chunks out of my television".
Here are some extracts:
"Even if The Thick of It were as entirely cynical as is sometimes supposed, even if it kept no light at all in its store of darkness, would it be fair to lay the blame at its feet for the negative way we view politics? It is, after all, a satire and satire's role is to prick the hot-air-filled bubbles above the mouths of politicians ... The issue is not that satire is becoming harsher; rather, it is that what is sitting on the other end of the balance is becoming lighter ...
"There are two main culprits here. The first is the politicians themselves ... I, for one, don't particularly want to see politicians on TV panel shows or otherwise attempting to show us their 'lighter side', not least because, with notable exceptions, they are so bad at it ...
"The second, and to my mind far more blame-worthy, party is the news media. The reporting of politics on television and radio in this country is itself turning into a joke. It doesn't help that most TV bulletins give the impression that those involved have misunderstood The Day Today and taken it to be some sort of training video. The reporting is overlaid with a patina of knowing, matey awfulness, and every report seems to start from the standpoint that all the politicians involved are foolish and the reporter could have told them it would end up this way.
"The chief, but by no means only, suspect is the BBC's Nick Robinson - a man whose style of failing to tell the news straight makes me want to bite chunks out of my television in despair. 'Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear,' he began one report, 'what a week it's been for Gordon Brown.' Do bear in mind, as he seems unwilling to do so, that he is not the sketch-writer for a sixth-form paper, but the BBC's political editor."
The BBC is not the only guilty party; Addison writes:
"I have seen Channel 4 News, that last hope of decent TV bulletins, run a report on a politician with speeded-up pictures and comedy piano music. I'm not joking. Sadly, Channel 4 is. These news bulletins are our first port of call for politics. They have a role in setting the tone and shaping the way we perceive our MPs and the processes in which they are involved.
"With its wink-wink approach, the news itself is presenting us with reports that appear watermarked with the notion that politicians are self-serving, laughable idiots. And this, not satire, is where people come by their cynicism."
Doth the comedian protest too much - or does he have a point?
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