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Series 2 - Episode 1

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Friday 4 July 2014, 09:10

Roger Bolton Roger Bolton

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Editor's Note: You can listen to Feedback online or download it here

Feedback Radio 4's forum for comments, queries, criticisms and congratulations

On this week’s Feedback we featured Jonathan Dimbleby making an unusual, and, perhaps for him, unique mistake on Radio 4's Any Questions. He attributed to a member of the panel a quote which was not theirs.

Here is the mistake in all its gory glory:
 

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Why did Any Questions presenter Jonathan Dimbleby have to apologise to MP Chris Bryant?

 
Now when a fellow presenter hears something like that there is often a moment of malicious glee, followed by a familiar cold tingle down the back of the spine as one realises that it could easily have been oneself making such a mistake.

Indeed I have done so, dear reader, though as a young assistant producer, first on Nationwide and then on Panorama.

In the case of the former I managed to invite onto the programme someone who was in favour of a proposition rather than, as I had been tasked, someone in opposition to it.

I discovered my mistake when the guest arrived with 20 minutes to go before we went on air. I excused myself and, in total despair, left the building and I thought  my career in television, too afraid to face the music, or rather the wrath of the presenter Michael Barratt.

Fortunately, I had gone only a few yards before sense returned and I steeled myself, went back inside and explained the situation to Michael, now with ten minutes to go before transmission.

He was calm, turned his questions around, and conducted a perfectly good interview.

Afterwards, on his way down from the studio, he gestured for me to join him in an empty side room where he proceeded to take me apart. Having done so he put his arm around me, confident that I would never make that mistake again, and took me into the hospitality room where he poured me a drink.

Subsequently he never mentioned the incident to anyone, and I survived. Thank you, Michael.

In the case of the Panorama programme I had just completed my first, and I hoped breakthrough, film for the programme, lambasting the Swansea Vehicle Licence Centre for a series of spending cock-ups and quoting a senior judge’s scathing comments in support. The trouble was he hadn't made them.

They had been made by another judge with whose views he violently disagreed.

He wrote me a scorching letter threatened to take up the issue with the Director General.

I had no defence so I crawled, abjectly, in print, and again survived. I’m glad to say the future rows in which I was involved were based on firmer journalistic ground.

So I have sympathy for Jonathan - or his researcher. I bet that particular error will not be repeated on Any Questions for a long time to come.

Meanwhile on Feedback I talked to Alison Hastings of the BBC Trust about its latest report on impartiality in science coverage and in particular about the concept of false balance, as defined by Professor Steve Jones, eg balancing someone representing an overwhelming scientific consensus with a non-scientist  who takes a different view.

The issue fascinates me because I think that too narrow a range of voices is heard on the air and I think that those who challenged the prevailing consensus should be given the air time to do so. However, as Steve Jones once put it to me. “You don’t need to balance a mathematician who says 2 plus 2 is 4, with a non- mathematician who says 2 plus 2 is 5.

I take his point.
 
Do let us know what you think about Woman's Hour coming south on Fridays, after decades of residence in Manchester, and about two front line women presenters on 5 Live being replaced by men. Not sure that was what the DG intended.
 
Roger Bolton
 
PS Sven was back this week - on Clue. Did you welcome his return or do you think he and Samantha should go off on a long holiday together?

Listen to this week's Feedback.

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    Comment number 1.

    Steve Jones' definition of false balance need not be confined to scientific matters.

    In any area where the debate hinges on reason and evidence it is equally applicable. That is perhaps why so many issues are perhaps deliberately manoeuvred onto the shifting sands of emotion: "national pride"; "traditional values" and so on. It makes any accusation of imbalance difficult to prove absolutely, however apparent it might be.

    Treatment of EU matters of late seem to me to have been markedly subject to this.

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    Comment number 2.

    One wonders in Mr Bolton would have been as forgiving as Michael Barratt if one of his young charges, say, Jeremy Paxman, terror engrained on his face, had approached him with: "Boss, there's something I have to tell you." If Mr Bolton made mistakes as a young man it is only reasonable to assume that Mr Paxman made them too.

 
 

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Woman's Hour Power List judges, 2014 Woman's Hour Power List judges, 2014

 

Identifying the top ten game changers operating in the UK today.

 

See the latest on our blog

 

Find out about this year's panel and theme