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Davos. Mit senf oder maionnais?

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Paul Mason | 20:17 UK time, Friday, 29 January 2010

It is the very essence of Mittel-Europa, this space in Davos where the world's savants come to discuss the salient issues of the day over a modest repast; where muslim interacts with Christian; intellectual rubs shoulders with hip-hop youth. I speak, of course, of the Davos Pizza-Kebab Shop (open Sundays).

The kebab shop is in the middle of the town's bleak co-op shopping centre, just below the discount ski-wear store. Obviously, since ski-ing and snowboarding are calorie burning sports, it attracts a fair number of local youth still high from the white adrenaline who sit there trying to calm down while chomping through the thick, soft bread that is wrapped around a Doner in these parts; their buzzing brains struggling with the key question of "senf oder maionnais" just as, a few yards down the road other brains struggle with "capital adequacy versus the Volcker rule".

There is a place like this in nearly every town I've worked. In Texas it has a floor covered with monkeynut shells and sells a burger branded "roadkill". In New York its walls are covered with photos of famous boxers hugging the proprietor, Jimmy. In Paris it has a small statue of Le Petit Marcel on the bar; in London it sells only coffee and reflects pictures of Italian boxers back over your shoulder. In Barcelona it sells cava and bacon sandwiches. To me such places constitute the essence of human discourse in a way the WEF struggles to. They are argumentative, true, places, where politeness goes out the window.

In the Davos kebab shop a Turkish carpet adorns the walls. Maghreb music drowns the general babble. There is displayed the shirt of an ice hockey team sponsored by the kebab shop and several trophies. Blokes wander in, read the paper and later in the day have a beer. Conscripts in camo fatigues shoot the breeze and, as I say, snowboarders go quietly mental. And they argue, curse the world, sympathise with each other's misfortune.

This is the "reality" from which the other Davos, the World Economic Forum, is so obviously and unfortunately divorced.

Today we had a high-powered debate on Afghanistan: Thomas Friedman, David Miliband, Carl Bilt, Radosław Sikorski, Ashraf Ghani, with Abdullah Abdullah speaking from the floor mic. It was utterly revealing and I sat amid a hall of rapt international journalists watching it on TV: taking notes, making wry comments, filling each other in on missing details. Much of the wryness concerned the fact that, of all the powerful people speaking on the platform, and from the floor, not one of them seemed to disagree with each other.

The west's strategy since 2002, I summarise, had been no good. The London conference excellent. The friendly wing of the Taliban were now prime candidates for being won over by bunging money at them. Politics had replaced military action.

It was so open, echt, and free-flowing that you could be forgiven for forgetting that, only a few years ago, a different cast of politicians would have been sitting there saying what a great thing the old, failed, military-focused strategy was and how you could never do deals with the Taliban.

The tide on Afghanistan, in short, has turned and the London conference has created momentum, and Davos is a very good place for journalists to be able to gauge this. But, we wondered, tapping into our laptops, would it have been too big a stretch to put somebody on the platform - just one person - who disagrees with the Afghan intervention? Or who would defend the old strategy?

Later, sitting amid the grumpy fug of the kebab shop, amid muslims, German-Speaking Swiss guys, mums, offduty security guys and young skiers, it occurred to me that if we could have re-staged the debate here, mit senf oder maionnais, it would have been at the same time less informed but more productive. People would have disagreed with each other and from the friction would have come wisdom.

This has been my first WEF and I've tried to suspend judgement but, as I get ready to call it a day, the biggest weakness here is groupthink. The limits of debate are predefined by a kind of liberal centrist consensus.

On some issues there is lively debate: for example Arianna versus Rupert over whether online content has to be put behind paywalls. But when it comes to the major issues, there are precious few here arguing, as the American conservative right does, against bank bailouts, or for a return to socially conservative values. Or as the left does for a radical rethink of corporate values and practice.

Likewise the economic debate ranges between a kind of moderate neoliberalism and a moderate neo-Keynesianism. Joe Stiglitz, in his new book, describes a previous Davos where the bankers poo-poohed his theories warning him that "nobody who matters thinks this". Though Stiglitz is here bigtime this year, I think it is still safe to say that "nobody who matters" really buys his critique or policy solutions.

As with parliamentary politics, the edges are filtered out and the centre reinforced with sessions discussing "How Classical Music Can Enrich the Lives of Children". Lula is absent because of illness, fair enough. But where is Chavez, Evo Morales? Where are UKIP? Where is Sarah Palin?

If there were any kind of democracy of attendance, you could excuse some of this, but Davos is after all an exclusive gathering: invite only. The average party conference in Britain is more diverse. Not even the "reporting media" are allowed in to the most important sessions; much of it's off the record. The exhilaration many people feel from being here is a product of the quasi-Athenian atmosphere that exists, where everyone who's made it here is taken seriously and everyone - to use the vernacular - gobs off, secure in the knowledge that important people are listening.

I wouldn't say it is mainly an event for naked commercial networking and dealmaking, although that clearly happens. It could just do with being less consensual, less polite, more able to pit the powerful against each other in intellectual death-match. At the level of business representation it could do with being less media-dominated and a lot more open to the small and medium businesses who are the backbone of the modern economy.

But here's the benchmark:

Newsnight is sometimes criticised for being an elitist or intellectual programme. But if you were to put all our studio guests on last year's Newsnight in one conference together it would be massively more diverse of opinion, less corporate dominated, and much feistier than Davos. In fact I might suggest this at our next office brainstorming session.

If you were then, as in an ideal world, to introduce the occupants of the kebab shop as equal participants, it would be feistier still.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    'Newsnight is sometimes criticised for being an elitist or intellectual programme.'

    It may be that this used to be so, but in more recent times that view appears to have changed somewhat. Newsnight has brought that about by trying to be popular, for all the wrong reasons I suggest. More fact, less opinion, would be good.

    If you take the word 'sometimes' literally, what you say is, of course, trivially true. What's really going to take the UK out of recession Paul? I mean really out of recession, i.e. real growth over several months too. Someone asked the question why it is that it only takes a few consecutive months of negative growth to define a recession, but only takes one tiny bit of growth to technically end a recession for several months.....

  • Comment number 2.

    #1 Statist

    If you are not receding then you are either standing still or growing, one months negative growth is decline, two months is receding.

    Paul, you will get the same diverse popular opinion in kebab shops the world over, you need to get yourself in to one of the parties going on on the slopes, where the children of the movers and shakers play to get a real feel of what their parents think (perhaps you are getting too old to crash parties like these uninvited)

    The world as we know it is being carved up in private meetings, responses to the Obama outburst made ready, did you really think it would be any different ?

    War might not be openly discussed in polite conversation but it is certainly in the back of the minds of the economic opportunists assembled in Davos this week.

  • Comment number 3.

    'Newsnight is sometimes criticised for being an elitist or intellectual programme.'

    Interesting. By whom?

    In the favoured nu-'reporting' style that punts unsubstantiated "what ever one fancies in the editorial meeting" up to challenging 3rd party gossip or PR as news into fact, one might equally opine 'some are now saying that much on Newsnight is often personal or corporate agenda spun in the edit suite to enhance the narrative and ensure events get interpreted correctly, even when live, but with careful selection of single viewpoint or ratings-rage 'twofer' guests, the questions posed, and the 'representative audience' sometimes brought in to offer 'we're convinced' 'feedback' to what they are presented, it can be ensured that the viewer goes away with the 'correct', desired impression.'

    Ironic given your piece rightly highlights an establishment trend to serving the public coherent, uncontroversial versions of what they are deemed to need to hear, and do, as opposed to getting a spread of what might actually be out there, such that they can be involved more and decide what to do, or not, for themselves.

    So the suggested mea culpa of being elitist or intellectual would be, even if true these days, infinitely preferable.

    I'd say your reports are mostly glowing exceptions to the new 'rules', to be fair. But sadly there is much else where I feel the above critique could easily applied.

    'It was so open, echt, and free-flowing..'

    ps: higlighting my poorer intellect, but also perhaps showing less elitist presumption can aid communication, what does 'echt' mean? Google was, for once, not my friend.

  • Comment number 4.

    3 ..Newsnight is sometimes criticised for being an elitist or intellectual programme.'

    Interesting. By whom?....

    good point. it wouldn't be the viewers so it must be within the BBC? What kind of bbc mindset would take that view? Those who brought us bbc presenter boxing? Who think wall to wall celebrity house shows are the height of culture? Those who think the only model young people have is that of a gang banging drug dealer who talks a kind of mock gangsta ghetto? which is why whenever the bbc bring 'yoof' on to a show its always that type of narrow model they promote? i can't remember the last time i saw a 'normal' young person on the bbc.

    one can only say anyone who thinks Newsnight is an elitist or intellectual programme. is starting from a very low base?

  • Comment number 5.

    paul- if davos is all you say 'an invite only fest of backslapping and smug monologues' why cover it? Has anything serious or game changing come out of it in the last 10 years?

    the only advantage i see is that you get a decent assignment for a change. Not too taxing, not too far away, lots of journo mates to chat with.

    i'm not sure i would honour it by sending journalists to cover it or if one did one would send the wooden spoon of the office in a campervan?

  • Comment number 6.

    Sounds like Davos needs to be culled.
    Newsnight is neither elitist or an intellectual programme... cos simple minded left school at 15 with no qualifications little old me enjoys listing to the knowledgeable and spotting the untrustworthy squirm under pressure.
    I HATE BBC breakfast "Listen with Mother" type news where the two main presenters, while shifting uncomfortably on the sofa every few seconds, present news with health warnings, announce the latest gov initative or instructions on how to climb a green tree without falling, harming it or the environment.
    Newsnight does what it says on the tin... present good news at night.

  • Comment number 7.

    2 BobRocket. Might it be that the same 'positive thinking' bias which has been driving manic markets/bankers for so long, isn't as healthy as some have been led to believe?

    Point one of a percent improvement over an x% decline in the previous month is to my mind just a variant of the confidence trick which we heard repeatedly spun in many other guises from usual suspects (see the Iraq Inquiry). There's no arguing logically with the irrational of course.

    We appear to have reached a tipping point/hysteresis in this respect at about the time we privatised a critical proportion of the Public Sector, I suggest. Instead of a duty to one another, these days, most people are out to get what they can from others. That's consumerism, not freedom.

    This can only end in tears.

  • Comment number 8.

    Just to be clear, by 'hysteresis' I mean that in some dynamical systems (with memory), there are non-linear, i.e abrupt, transitions in state (also known as catastrophes) - in electronics, some filters work this way. In economics (e.g. discount functions), there are non-linear ogives.

    There was a time when we seemed to work collectively for one another (imperfectly no doubt), but there came a time, not so long ago, it seems to some of us, that that 'flipped'. A 'critical mass' effect? Is there a way back?

  • Comment number 9.

    Sadly this reminds me of most discussion on university campuses too these days, at least in Australia. Is it not just because where major money and political interest is involved then any debate is really just a charade because all the decisions have already been made or are made elsewhere? Or alternatively, the debate doesn't happen because nothing's really at stake for those involved. Or am I just being too simplistic?

  • Comment number 10.

    #9

    ''Simplify it damn it simplify'' (quote by someone famous and wise ...I think!!)

    They would like you to think it is more complicated than it is, otherwise most people in Davos would be clean out of a job. You are not being too simplistic, you are being young and as yet untainted by too many adult mind games.

    long before your time I suspect but there is avery good song by a band called 'Deacon Blue', I cant remember the name of the song but your post reminded me of a line within it.

    I uspect many a Davos delegate probably started out similar to yourself but in a quiet moment of reflection looking at a recent photograph of themselves they refelct thus:

    ''So take a look at this flash lit photograph you beautiful fake, dont look like the kind of guy I used to hate''

    All very apt stuff this after the demise of JD salinger recently.

    look after your 'simplicity' 'Lisa' dont become a 'beautiful fake' and dont let them fool you.


    Anyway, moving on.

    Paul,

    this line jumped out at me

    ''It would have been at the same time less informed but more productive. People would have disagreed with each other and from the friction would have come wisdom.''

    I rather think that would also refelct the status of this blog space you have created. A bit of feistyness on NN would be a good thing too, I suggested some time ago on the NN editors blog that a 'Top gear' type format would be interesting to explore on a number of levels and may get a bit of zing and interest back into debating again, chanelling the raw energy of 'Question time' into a difrferent direction in a different format that is both entertaining, informative and unleveraged.

    The existing NN team may be able to pull it off you know.

    But nobody ever listens to me :)

  • Comment number 11.

    Corporate philosophy and poweromics places us all within the heart of public-private partnerships in our stakeholder and user groups motivated by our success drivers. The world comprises private/public/third sector centres of gravity.The WEF adopts the gobbledigook and insists on consensual change as the only basis for reform.Champions and leaders and opinion-formers are welcome by invitation, the majority from the corporate global community. Big business deserve the pride of place - afterall its an "Economic" forum isnt it and who best to lead the agenda? The kids in the Kebab house or the small business guy with a view dont fit the poweromics.

  • Comment number 12.

    BBC panel/audience political shows are heavily 'censored' though aren't they?

    QT and the regional clones have to X number of Labour supporters in the audience, X number of Conservative supporters, X Liberals and so on. Joe Public sits at home thinking that the audience is just a bunch of people who have telephoned in, got a ticket for the filming and turned up - but that is actually very far from the truth.

    I am told by one BBC presenter that sometimes there are so many political party supporters, lobby groups and their like in the 'public' audience that there hardly is any room for genuine members of the public - so, what happens to true debate, true questioning and true opinion from the great British public then? Not much chance.

    Hence why, no doubt, the Internet forums and blogs attract more interesting questioning and debate of what is going on politically, economically, etc, now than the majority of political shows on Television.

    The Broadcast industries still don't it - in fact, I will go so far as to say that this blog is one of the few blogs on the BBC's websites that seems to welcome all opinions, all views and does not appear to suffer the censorship that other BBC blogs do.

    British Television is still grasping for how to understand and deal with the transformation of 'Broadcasting' that the Internet has brought about - the power has gone and it is a good thing. ITV does not have a clue IMPO, Channel 4 is too far up itself IMPO and the BBC, well, the dear old BBC wishes to maintain control whilst preserving the illusion of openness - much like all those audiences full of vested interests masquerading as ordinary members of the public.

    Frankly, you get more interesting, challenging and open debate on this blog than you do on programmes such as Question Time.

  • Comment number 13.

    You are right the local refreshment shop is always the best place to find the locals and get to know what they really think. Understanding why they think what they think is a bit more complex. In my experience the German Swiss, or are they Swiss Germans, remain the old unreconstructed German convinced of their own perfection: no Stunde Zero apocalypse for them!

    I find it extraordinary that there are those who decry Newsnight as elitist or intellectual. What I like about it is that it is not bland: we even get some good television on it. Is that something to decry? Not at all: would that all television was as good.

    With regard to conferences such as Davos I am always left with the sense that, as me dear lady wife would say, these are just a lot of people looking up their own fundament. Only she does not use the word fundament. I tend to concur with that view, not because it makes for a peaceful household, but because it is true.

    There is a harshness about human affairs which can be either invigorating or frightening. I fear that the frightening ethos tends to apply in western Europe, so we never speak the truth in front of the children for fear of being thought elitist or intellectual. This is why our politics are so feeble and our politicians so committed to dissimulation.

  • Comment number 14.

    ...Newsnight is sometimes criticised for being an elitist or intellectual programme....

    clearly the bbc think the public are stupid otherwise how could they put out the dan brown royal navy series which is the worst sort of propagandising historical monarchist rot. apparently we should believe the royal navy discovered places unknown. The words ' unknown to the white man' seems to be missing on the end of every dan brown similar statement.
    Apparently we should rejoice that the navy defended the west indies [a sugar factory run by slaves]. Or defended the monarchist system against the extension of democracy.

    it just comes across as the alf garnett the map is pink view of british history.

    one thought such last night of the proms history had gone out in the 1970's with love your neighbour and the minstrel show. What a terrible incomplete account.

    objectively the royal navy was a tool of monarchist oppression that oversaw a slave empire both abroad and at home.

    this incomplete if not biased programme should carry a mental health warning that anyone who believes it will find themselves with false beliefs.

  • Comment number 15.

    Feistier than Davos? as benchmark..?..Says it all. I cannot see what the hell you were doing there. Hopefully not believing Mandelson, as the Channel 4 economics reporter was.

    As for the Afghanistan stuff - did anyone at Davos suggest the 'economic efficiency' of having unemployed youf join the Taliban to get them off the unemployment statistics, if it is to be such a nice little earner now?

    Or is it left to youf around plenty of countries including the UK, to work that out for themselves - as no doubt they did 5 minutes after Brown announced buying off the 'uncommitted' Taliban.

    Its not a joke. This fool's lack of life experience outside of the political spin circus is positively dangerous.

    It is a serious issue that by using this buying off tactic, as he has in this country for a long time, he is ensuring that we are threatened FOREVER here. Its called a 'basic motivator'. Threaten and you get cash. Cease to threaten and you get ignored, as are 'white working class' youf to use New Labour's perjorative language.

    He is also ensuring that poor countries continue to pop up as al Quaeda breeding grounds, hands out for development money. For them, similarly, it's the way out of poverty oblivion.

    And if things do calm down, they will have been put on the tourist map - not to be sniffed at, considering the weight of tourism in economies. I can imagine Guardian readers already lining up the tour to the Yemeni capital.

    And as for the development aspect of Brown's seriously flawed policy, how come he missed the fact that the first basic of 'devt' as a 'counter to extremism' is women's rights? Matched by the fact that all the countries that are AQ breeding grounds are the worst on women's rights - Yemen, Afgahnistan, Pakistan, Somalia.

    Coincidence? I think not. That's what an AQ breeding ground IS - a place where women are 10th class after donkeys.

    Where's the recogntition of this most basic element in Brown's London conference discourse, or plan. How many advisors are we paying for that manage to miss this?

  • Comment number 16.

    14. jauntycyclist

    This contribution from you surprised me. I have not seen the above series, but I think some of the 1970s programmes that you mention were cleverly subversive in their use of irony.

    In my view, the system of law and government exported by Britain in its heyday had the merit of being meritocratic, i.e wasn't all bad.

    Why have so many of us been so eager to see that eroded, and eroded in favour of what?

    I watched a BBC4 on the real Mrs Mandela recently and was appalled by what she did in the name of 'liberation', it was clearly the worst of anarchism/communism. Is South Africa today really better off? Are any of the ex-colonies other than those under East Asian rule?

    Many of your posts have been justly (and in my view, very astutely) critical of the alternative. This one surprised me a little.

  • Comment number 17.

    14

    that should be dan snow [son of ex NN presenter]. is the bbc hereditary?

    16.

    how is having colonies run as slave factories a good thing? empire is not a 'good idea' even though that principle is still enshrined at the heart of the uk establishment. even the public honours have the words empire in them. to see the doctrine of imperialism at work look at tibet, gaza, dafur, etc.


    this show may have been born out of the social engineering need to british up society due to the constant defeats in the war on terror. for me it's just a show that provides red meat to the crypto bnp classes.

    its one thing to tub thump about past glories [glossing over the negatives] but the modern RN is more like the ipod crews that were taken prisoner by iran or the rules of engagement that do not allow them to attack somali pirates. nelson would have resigned from the modern health and safety navy rather than suffered such castration?

  • Comment number 18.

    17. jauntycyclist 'how is having colonies run as slave factories a good thing?'

    Of course, put that way, it isn't, but that isn't what I was referring to. Britain did many of the places in colonized a lot of good by establishing infrastructures which, where ability existed, still prevail to a large degree even today.

    'empire is not a 'good idea' even though that principle is still enshrined at the heart of the uk establishment'

    Testament to the fact that it is, is surely evidenced by the very large number of Commonwealth people who migrated to the 'Home Country'? You might be surprised just how well respected many expatriates actually were, and in some places, still are. This was because, in the main, they were fair and just. Those days have largely now gone and I suspect many people still moving here (legally or illegally) are now disappointed.

  • Comment number 19.

    jauntycyclist - Nevertheless, for what it's worth, in my view, what you have to say in your Newsnight blogs is excellent stuff! Keep it coming!

  • Comment number 20.

    Davos is by invite only you say. Just who does the inviting and who are the MC's? Is it sponsored and can we look forward to a celebrity Davos perhaps with Lulu invited as her near namesake is indisposed. Are delegates/invitees sent away with a party pack containing a sealed envelope only to be opened is circumstances of dire economic calamity and the contents would say "In cases of emergencies organise a military coup"
    Secret meetings that even (perhaps particularly) Paul Mason is excluded. Seemingly it is beyond the BBC to get round this but why not try this - oi Mr Miliband I can guarantee nice patsy interview with Paxman if you just wear this wire for the next exclusive plenary?

    Careful what you write about the great and the good (and vindictive)as you may be relating later - a funny thing happened to me on the way back from the forum!!

  • Comment number 21.

    Kebab Shop Vox Pop

    How do you know there is no consensus to be found within the diverse clientel ?

    It's no good reporting conjecture. I would be interested to compare street level wisdom with that eminating from the conference centre.

  • Comment number 22.

    21. supersnapshot - 'It's no good reporting conjecture.'

    In fact, it's worse than no good, it's a licence to produce creative fiction as it's easy to fabricate/confabulate when those allegedly 'reported' are anonymous too.

    It isn't necessarily 'reporting' per se, in fact, is it?

    I wonder how many of us critically think about such matters when we read or hear the news, or try to follow inquiries? There were one or two points made in this 2003 article on Blair's alleged 'madness', which (as I read it) pretty much tacitly equated the performances of our legally trained leaders, with those of actors and actresses (who also deliver their lines in an effort to impress/persuade their audiences/fans, counting on the latter suspending disbelief....

    It would be good if reporters just reported, and politicians..well...don't you think?

  • Comment number 23.

    A USEFUL INDICATOR FOR MADNESS? (#22)

    Setting aside the whole sad chronicle of Blair-behaviour, it was the dream-topping of his 'conversion' that so struck me. When a man changes from one branch of an illogical dogma to another branch, with no possibility of a reasoned motive, his competence as a human being (if not his sanity) must surely come into question?

  • Comment number 24.

    23 barriesingleton - as someone else astutely remarked, 'sanity' is a legal term.

    CH4 did a rather hard hitting drama-doc on Mo Mowlam last night. Apart from a rather caustic commentary on the internal politics of New Labour and how physical constitution can account for all sorts of things, one of the more subtle themes I thought I discerned was a rather interesting possibility of what might have really been going on in terms of European federation at the expense of the integrity of GB and the UK, all with the help of the United States. One ends up asking, 'what's Britain'?

    I can't help but note how so many of New Labour's influential politicians had some of their careers or training over in the USA, Mo Mowlam included.

  • Comment number 25.

    Was the Mo Mowlam dram-doc on Channel 4?

    You know, in the past fortnight I have seen or heard the actress playing her on so many BBC programmes that I assumed it was a BBC programme and was keeping an eye out for it on the BBC.

    There is a lesson in there somewhere.

  • Comment number 26.


    Which Capitalism?
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/leading_article/article7010380.ece
    Two arguments dominated the World Economic Forum — the long-term question about the nature of capitalism and the immediate question of bankers and their pay.


    Statist.....I think you could have written this article!

  • Comment number 27.

    Paul

    I've recently been reading a social science introduction to how knowledge is gained and one of the aspects that throws up is that the knowledge we seek to gain is informed by our past experiences (i.e. those with similar histories are likley to ask similar questions of a situation).
    There is also a tendency for elites to form from those with similar backgrounds.
    These two combine so that there becomes an overall orthodoxy which considers itself rationally created (you tend to be required to have a particular set of attributes of skills to end up in an elite) but is narrowly defined because the breadth of questions that could be asked aren't.
    Those outside of the elite can feel excluded, as if their view of the world, that can be equally rationally constructed from their experiences, is a minor consideration.
    It comes from women's studies, I believe.
    It was true of the original royal society and it's true of the Davos collective.

    A newsnight conference sounds like a good idea to me. I'd like it like a trade fair. As well as being an interesting thing of us to visit for me, I think it'd help you guys refresh the lenses through which you question things. I think you'd need to keep the politicians out as much as possible.
    If that's not a flyer why not suggest a lecture series around a topic where different speakers can present different views, angles, approaches, subtopics in a more through fashion than is normally afforded.

  • Comment number 28.

    Freemarket whatever

    even prepared to pay with your own life?

  • Comment number 29.

    I doubt that the Public will ever have any real access to any debate programmes on either the BBC, ITV or whoever nowadays.

    The Broadcasters are too dependent upon the patronage of politicians for the licence fee, or hoping to get a bit of the licence fee, or journalists who wish to become politicians themselves or those journos who simply wish to be 'on the inside'.

    So, as I pointed out in a previous post, you end up with studio audiences filled with the activists of the political parties or 20-year-old political studies' students who believe they will be in Parliament within the year. Very few, if any, 'ordinary' members of the public get past the audience vetting process.

    Hence why the internet forums, blogs and so on have far more interesting and dynamic debate going on.

    In my part of the UK, for example, you never ever get one person in a political debate TV programme who is allowed to raise any question on the vast sums of public money that goes towards the Welsh Language - or why the Broadcasters in Wales are dominated by a group that represents less than 10% of the Welsh population. It is not allowed because there are too many vested interests in both Welsh Broadcasting, in the Welsh Assembly and in Parliament.

    But look to the Internet and debate in Wales that has had no outlet for 30 years is now openly debated online. What you will never see discussed on a BBC Wales or ITV Wales programme is now openly discussed and hotly debated in Internet forums. Should we keep pumping hundreds of millions of pounds into a Welsh Language Channel watched by a few thousand, but making a handful of people very rich, or should we spend the money on schools and hospitals? In 30 years BBC Wales has never asked that question - and never will.

    In short, if television does not get its act together and open up the debate shows to real, open and frank debate then the audiences will go elsewhere. In fact, they already are. The real debate is out there now online. I can access it 24 hours a day, can actively participate or just observe. I think that a great many who work in Television simply 'don't get it' and, sadly, never will.

    I do hope that Newsnight seriously considers adding a new dimension of debate to the programme. But please, if it only results in items such as 'Is the Internet killing creativity' - a truly ludicrous concept that only someone in the cocoon of Broadcasting can come up with - then I suspect many a blogger here will be disappointed.

    Think outside of the box? No, throw the box away and start again!

  • Comment number 30.

    That discussion was comedically bad - I don't think I've ever seen anyone say "no I wasn't saying that" to everything an interviewer was saying he said. It's like they thought he'd written a different book. It's more most people spend just as little time being creative on the internet as they do off it situation anyway.

  • Comment number 31.

    30 - The Count.

    I didn't watch it. I merely cringed when I heard Kirsty utter the phrase "Is the Internet killing crativity" and sighed a big despondent sigh of "Why am I surprised?". I then banged my head against my laptop keyboard several times.

    Only in TV-Land would you hear such an utterance and I personally think that many who work in traditional Broadcasting don't get it. Millions no longer grow up angsting over which track will be number one or what is on the television tonight.

    There was a time when millions adored the music hall and went regularly. Those of us who grew up in the 60s and 70s would never consider going to the music hall and millions growing up today just go online - they don't care which 'record' is in the shops or who watched what last night on the goggle-box.

    But, I suspect, a lot of very well paid 45-plus BBC types, and those in other Broadcasters, do not understand that. Hence why you end up with these silly debates about the WWW. Anyone who uses the Internet fully as an educational, creative and communication tool will know full well that the Internet is a vast pool of creative talent.

    I did channel hop back to NN halfway through the item and saw what looked like, IMPO, a strange looking person on the screen. I might have been watching Family Guy though. Sorry, I can't remember, as I was also watching a brilliant 3D animation on my laptop from some chap based in LA ;-)

    Did they have Stephen Fry on? The BBC seems to think that Stephen Fry is the only British person who knows what a computer is.

  • Comment number 32.

    The guy who'd written the book which the "the internet is killing creativity" hypothesis supposedly came from looked like the guy who owns the comic shop in the simpsons. But what he was saying is a lot more nuanced.
    I'd noticed his book in waterstones recently because of the title "You are not a gadget".
    I can't remember who the dude supposed to be opposed to him was but he was a big fan of cloud computing and had something to do with the digital britain report.

    Afterwards on BBC2 they showed a repeat of the documentary about the internet that was on on saturday - that did have Stephen Fry in it. It was presented Aleks who used to present the computer games program Bits and is now a doctor. It had far too many filler shots of her stood in fancy locations using a variety of different tech.
    You can mash up all their talking heads on their mini-site or something like that. If you feel creatively inclinded to do so.

  • Comment number 33.

    31. tawse57 'Did they have Stephen Fry on? The BBC seems to think that Stephen Fry is the only British person who knows what a computer is.'

    Any suggestions as to why SF is so over-exposed?

    An excellent series of posts (IMHO) by the way.

  • Comment number 34.

    33 - Statist

    Thank you for your kind words.

    Please write to the BBC and tell them how wonderful I am. It will save me having to say it to myself in the shaving mirror today.

    I have no idea why SF is so over-exposed. I do think he is an interesting, witty person but, well, I just do not wish to see him doing everything from satire to wildlife to technology to... Give someone else a chance. The BBC likes to have individuals as personalities or 'cornerstones' for some reason. Hence that ridiculous list circulating a few weeks back about which presenters were 'in' and which ones are not.

    I think personally it is the Dimbleby/Attenborough concept of somehow justifying the Broadcasting as being vital and important by building up the supposed gravitas of the presenter. So if you can create yourself an image of being an expert, of having 'weight' and a smackering of intellect then you can go far in the BBC - as you can in many aspects of life - and make some serious money.

    If you watch carefully, all sorts of presenters, some you would have never have thought of as being wildlife fans, have begun making wildlife documentaries in the past 24 months, SF included, and I get the sneaking suspicion that quite a few people would like to see themselves as the 'new Attenborough' in a few years. Could be a 30 or 40 year career in it for the lucky 'winner'.

    You also have Producers and Executives who basically tie their mast to certain presenters and hence a mutual self-promotion begins. If X presenter rises through the ranks, and I help that rise in some way, then so my star will rise also. It helps if you can tick a few boxes in the various ethnic, gender, etc, boxes.

    I am personally of the opinion that anyone who wishes to be either a politician or a TV presenter should be banned by law from ever having either role. In fact, and I think I have mentioned this before, they all should be given a gun and a parachute and dropped on Tora Bora. Don't send the brightest and best to fight in Helmand, send in Children's TV presenters instead!

    Right, I must go and interrogate some estate agents. In my part of the World they are getting very nervous again. Apparently, there has been a sudden surge of middle to senior managers in the Welsh public sector wishing to sell their homes quickly and downsize. I wonder why that is? ;-)

  • Comment number 35.

    34. tawse57 I think you may be on to something in your last sentence of your third paragraph from the end.

    Witty and satirical, definitely. But as with Family Guy, The Simpsons, South Park and various incarnations of alternative comedy on this side of the pond - as with 'Borat' etc, I'm always mindful of what, or who, is being satirized, and by whom (along with who isn't in the frame/sights). There are points/inequalities which we collectively fail to notice, but which shape our views and actions nonetheless.

  • Comment number 36.

    Sadly, we do not have a Family Guy or South Park here in the UK - why is that I wonder?

    Magicians divert us with pretty semi-naked ladies, sparking lights and puffs of smoke. Broadcasters, politicians - hmm, what do they use? As is so often in life, it is not what you can see but what you don't.

    I do find it quite fascinating how many comedians are now rubbishing Blair in the past week - my mind wanders back to those heady days of '97 and all those 'Cool Britannia' parties in Downing Street. If there is a lesson to be had there then, perhaps, it is not to derive your moral compass from a bunch of luvvies. The beauty of both Family Guy and South Park is that both shows show no reverence to anyone or anything - unlike many of our comedians they are not transient in their adoration and loathing. They see all as targets.

    When any Broadcaster becomes a part of the establishment, and dependent upon political patronage for funding and also career advancement by some executives within that Broadcaster, we lose so much within our democracy.

    Great oaks that stand for a 1,000 years, and which survive numerous storms from outside, often rot from within.





  • Comment number 37.

    36. tawse57 'Sadly, we do not have a Family Guy or South Park here in the UK - why is that I wonder?'

    We had the likes of Alf Garnet, Monty Python, Not The Nine O'Clock News, Ben Elton, Little Britain, and let's not forget Black Adder and a renanimated Jeeves and Wooster - all of which served the same clverly subversive (aka 'ironic/satirical') purpose I suggest.

    People wonder where there United Kingdom, traditions, and economy has gone.... How they laughed along the way.

  • Comment number 38.

    36. tawse57 'The beauty of both Family Guy and South Park is that both shows show no reverence to anyone or anything...

    ..As is so often in life, it is not what you can see but what you don't.'

    Look a little closer.....

  • Comment number 39.

    'Much of the wryness concerned the fact that, of all the powerful people speaking on the platform, and from the floor, not one of them seemed to disagree with each other.

    Paul, is that perhaps because they've been led to believe that it's against House Rules', and that infrigements are likely to result in temporary or permanent exclusion from 'social networking'?

  • Comment number 40.

    I tend to have 'The One Show' on in the background whilst preparing my evening meal. Partly to see just how bad it is, partly because I cannot listen to another edition of 'Channel 4 News' rubbishing anyone who dares to question so-called global warming...

    Anyhow, on 'The One Show' tonight is an interesting little item, only a few minutes in duration, about Brown, his appeal to the Middle Classes and whether he stands any chance of getting them to vote for him which is...

    Oh dear, an interesting discussion now cut short by cutting to Adrian Childs and the female presenter talking about Steve Wright and music! A most bizarre show! Just flit from here to there and back again. Darn, for a moment I thought that there was going to be a hard-hitting economic discusison on early evening BBC1. How silly of me!

    So, the FTSE fell 2% today, the banks took a hit and whilst there is still QE for tea there are worries that the cookie jar is almost empty - and then the country will be running on empty. I wonder how many more little wobbles we will have before the FTSE tests the lows of March last year?

    Here in Wales the Public Sector job annoucements are coming thick and fast - Swansea Council stated that 300 managers and 200 teachers will be going. Cardiff Council also has 300 managers going and this is following on Neath - Port Talbot Council saying 750 would go last week followed by Swansea who said that "several hundred more" will go on top of the 500 already announced. In a country almost entirely dependent upon Public Sector jobs there is simply no where for most of these people to go.

    Oh dear.

  • Comment number 41.

    I think Peston has been reading your blog Paul.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours/shows/shows/peston_money

  • Comment number 42.

    Thanks for the reports, great as usual.

    However, can you tell us anything about the more-or-less simultaneous 'secret' meeting of top world bankers/leaders reported in Sydney on Feb 6th as per this article/link:

    http://www.news.com.au/business/secret-summit-of-top-bankers/story-e6frfm1i-1225827289543

    Seems a little strange to me that there's this simultaneous meeting in the South Pacific (Mr Rudd and his language skills chairing(?) whilst the Euro region are in another (video-linked perhaps) meeting in Davos - no? What's going on?

  • Comment number 43.

    My apologies, dates mix-up, that's what burning midnight oil gets you!
    I see Davos may not coincide with Sydney, but the Brussels Euro crisis talks including the Greece issue may do? See the list of attendees thought to be in Sydney, seems like a lot of important heads will be sat round discussing some big issues on our collective futures this week.

  • Comment number 44.

    Paul,

    Time for some commentary on the euro i think, I came accros this comment on another blog concerning the stability of the euro.

    ''Hahaha! Greetings from across the atlantic. Welcome to federalism, big boys. Maybe you can learn something from us history-less, culture-less, quaint Americans afterall.

    You see, sometimes you have to give in order to get. The wealthy states pay more in taxes than they get in services to the federal governement. But, then they have control over the financial sector and a cheap source of military blood in the south. So france and germany, step up! And poor foot soldiers by the 10s of thousands can be yours.''


    His basic model is correct and exposes the situation beautifully, except nobody will step up to the plate for the very reason he takes a swipe at...There is too much history between European nations for a federal model to work...ever. G

    Greek soldiers will never beat their chests and march pruodly under the european flag. The USA works in the way it does because it wiped out all previous history there, allowing a nation to unite under a single philosophy and heritage, free from history, it is now in the process of making its own history.

    The same could happen in europe, it would take a charasmatic individual to motive millions with a mission to sweep away that which divides us using what ever means.

    I believe that has been already tried and did not work out too well.


    And so Europe's 60 year long identity crisis continues, under the stewardship of a belgian called 'Von rumpy'.

    Good night everyone.



  • Comment number 45.

    Is it true that the great and the good, or the powerful and the corrupt, at Davos were very concerned that when/should another banking crisis rise in the coming years that populations around the world would become 'rebellious'?

    If so, did they speculate on what 'rebellious' meant in their view?

    I suppose they are still pinching themselves that they got away with QE without the lynch mobs and knitting needles coming out in force.

 

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