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Feedback: The Budget

Friday 23 March 2012, 14:20

Roger Bolton Roger Bolton

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Roger Bolton

Feedback's presenter Roger Bolton

This week on Feedback we've been looking at coverage of the Budget and, in particular, the phenomenon of so called "pre news" i.e. speculation, informed or otherwise.

In the view of veteran commentators like Moneybox's Paul Lewis this year's leaks have been unprecedented. Well I say leaks but as Paul points out what really went on was an extraordinary amount of selective briefings by the Treasury and No 10, attributably of course.

It is all a far cry from those days when the contents of the budget were as closely guarded as the movements of Prince William in the Falklands.

Indeed the post war Labour Chancellor Hugh Dalton had to resign because he gave away some small details of his budget minutes before he delivered it.

When I was a very young producer in the early 70's, working on BBC Budget specials, the first we heard of the budget details was in the slightly rushed and hushed tones of one of our reporters who had popped out of the Chamber of the House of Commons during the speech to talk to us by phone, before popping back in again, hoping he hadn't missed too much in the meantime.

Later the Treasury agreed to send a representative to our studio with a copy of the Chancellor's speech which was released, agonisingly slowly, page by page, after, not before, the Chancellor had read it out.

There was extensive "spinning" of course, but it was after the speech not before it.

The aim of this year's selective briefings was, of course, to get favourable headlines for the Government, and help set the agenda in a way which benefits the Coalition. How should, how did, BBC journalists respond to this avalanche of "pre news"?

That is one of the subjects in this week's programme.

Here are my interviews with Paul Lewis and former Radio 4 editor Kevin Marsh. It starts with a chat with Feedback listener Elizabeth Balsom.

In a few weeks I will be interviewing the Controller of Radio 4, Gwynneth Williams, about some forthcoming schedule changes she has announced, and of course about anything you want me to ask her.

Details of how to get in touch are on the Feedback pages of this website.

And I would just like to make clear that, despite, hundreds, nay thousands of requests for me to declare myself a candidate in the race to be the next BBC Director General, I will not be doing so.

You see the present DG used to be my researcher and I always think of him as "little Mark Thompson" despite his being well over six feet tall.

Of course if he would like to succeed me as presenter of Feedback he is welcome to try, but perhaps he needs a period of decontamination first, and, as far as I am aware, there is no vacancy.

Roger Bolton

Roger Bolton presents Feedback

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    Comment number 1.

    There was a lot of "pre news" on the Budget, but what news organisation what not rush to report something that it knows the Chancellor is to utter on the day? The Government's aim is to manipulate the news, the public wants to know what will be in the budget and news organisations want to be ahead of their competitors. All the vital ingredients for a noxious brew. Which reminds me why "pre-loading" is preferable to "pre news"!

    I am surprised to learn that Mark Thomson is over six feet tall. A lot of the photos I have seen of him (and these are BBC ones) have him looking like a bantamweight who has landed many times on the canvas. But in reality he is another "heavyweight" that has come through the Bolton stable. A best selling author was the previous one revealed. Did any of the Controllers make the tea!

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    If now more 'selective briefings' than ad hoc leaks then not so much 'pre news' news but a millipedial limb of it at a different position.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    I would like to speak out against those spiteful and humourless comments besmirching the good Count Arthur Strong a magnificent figure in this age of nobodies and one of the most misunderstood people on the radio today. Together with "The Castle" and "Bleak Expectations" the funniest radio comedy for many years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.


    I disagree with you. The comments made the critics of Strong hit the bullseye. When I hear Strong speak expletives instinctively come to mind. His critics were eloquent. Someone should have pulled the chain on this contaminant of the airwaves long, long ago.

    It is telling that no one from the BBC came to the Feedback studio to defend Strong. Instead a statement was issued. I suggest that trash like Strong is indefensible and that is why a mere statement was issued. Few licence-fee payers are laughing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Dear Mr or Ms Newlach I do not understand why people like you want to spoil other peoples fun. There are plenty of programs on the Radio 4 that I have a problem understanding why anyone would listen to them but at least I am endowed with the humility to avoid making pronouncements about them. Maybe you should ask yourself why you feel so passionate about this program when you could merely swithch off the radio.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.


    It is my happiness that is being ruined every time I hear Strong's voice. He is simply not funny. Period. I do turn off the radio when his programme comes on. I liked listening to the solid criticism of him at the start of Feedback, but then a blast from Strong hit me on my blind side. Apparently, that was him at his very, very best. My sides are splitting, ha! ha! ha! Mispronouncing the name Miguel - what a great gag! I have nothing more to say about the matter.


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Find out about this year's panel and theme