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Overkill? Roger Bolton on Radio 4's election coverage

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Roger Bolton Roger Bolton 13:25, Friday, 14 May 2010

wilson

Editor's note. This week's item from Radio 4's Feedback programme concerns the network's extensive coverage of the post-election drama in Westminster, 'busting' the schedule and coverage of the Liberal Democrats. Did Radio 4 get it right? Tell us what you think in a comment below - SB

"Deceitful weasels", "double crossing two faced shysters who would sell their mothers for political gain", "untrustworthy and treacherous."

That is how some gentlemen of the press described the Liberal Democrats for their negotiating tactics before they formed a coalition with the Conservatives. When David Cameron and Nick Clegg gave a press conference together in the garden of No 10 Downing St they were described as being like Morecambe and Wise.

You would not of course expect BBC journalists to give vent to such feelings but it had been a long night, or rather a succession of long nights.

I hope BBC News doesn't have to make overtime payments any more because instead of being tucked up in bed for the weekend, after the usual exhausting election night and the frenetic campaign which preceded it, the Beeb's journalists were still out on the streets of Westminster six days later, as cabinet posts were finally being allocated.

So it was thrilling but exhausting for them, how was it for Feedback listeners? Did they enjoy it as much as the reporters?

(Having worked on BBC election coverage in the distant past I was just plain jealous of those involved in the action. There is something thrilling about being with politicians who don't know if they will have a job tomorrow and have no more idea of what the result of the election will be than anyone else. Time stands still, personal fortunes change by the second. History is made in front of you).

Even the most poker-faced parliamentary candidate finds it difficult to disguise their emotions. Now they know their fate and everyone has had some sleep, we brought together a panel of listeners to discuss their views with the deputy Head of BBC News, Steve Mitchell, who is also Head of News Programmes.

In the Broadcasting House studio with Mr Mitchell were David Lloyd and Emma Blamey. Samera Haynes Khan was in a BBC Manchester studio and Brenda Steele was on the phone from the Black Isle, just above Inverness.

David Lloyd began our discussion with a comment about the leaders' debates:

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Feedback is now off the air until July but please keep in touch. We read everything you write and we are keen to come back all guns blazing.

Roger Bolton presents Feedback on BBC Radio 4

  • Listen again, get in touch with the programme, find out how to join Feedback's listener panel or subscribe to the podcast on the Feedback web page.
  • The picture, from the BBC's picture library, shows Harold Wilson leaving Downing Street with wife Mary during another dramatic period in Westminster, in 1974.
  • Radio 4 head of Scheduling Tony Pilgrim wrote about the network's extensive election schedule changes on the blog yesterday.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Yes, Radio 4 did overdo the election coverage. Yes, too many programmes were cancelled. Radio 4, and the BBC in general, always overdoes its coverage of such events, eg the deaths of Princess Diana and the Queen Mother (and just about any celeb), large sporting events, etc. What is particularly annoying is that interesting and entertaining programmes are cancelled and replaced by programmes that typically contain mostly repetition of what has happened and speculation of what might happen! The actual hard news content is usually minimal. Let's face it, BBC presenters just love an excuse to chatter!

  • Comment number 2.

    I totally disagree with the views expressed in comment #1, the BBC has a duty to cover such events fully.

    If anything we need more politics, more rolling news and current affairs on R4, not less, reception of Radio Five live in many parts of the country is hopeless, even if the style and content of the station was more broadsheet than tabloid.

  • Comment number 3.

    Actually Boilerplated why should the mainstream media cover the election at all?

    If Parliamentary Democracy is supposed to be a system where voters elect a candidate in their constituency why can't they get their information and opinions from rival local constituency parties who are putting up candidates and then make their own decisions on the issues devoid of the media and in particular the hysteria that this election attracted? This will free BBC News to report factual news rather than allowing careerist politicians to delude millions that they are better managers of capitalism than others.

    The whole election coverage was a charade anyway, not just by the BBC but from the whole mainstream media in general. The frenzied excitement, particularly over the live leaders TV debates was just a facade to obscure there was no ideological difference between any of the three main parties which is why we had that flurry after the result where it was a toss up over who the Lib Dems formed a coalition with.

    The reality is Tories, New Labour and the Lib Dem's could all be in the same coalition and nobody would be none the wiser.

  • Comment number 4.

    #3. At 9:37pm on 21 May 2010, Nick Vinehill wrote:

    "Actually Boilerplated why should the mainstream media cover the election at all?"

    Democracy!

    But you do raise a valid question, why should the mainstream media offer any entertainment, want that then turn off your TVs or radios, go down town, buy a ticket to cinema, theatre or concert and enjoy, want music, go buy a CD or two, why expect the radio to broadcast such content...

  • Comment number 5.

    4. Boilerplate:

    You clearly believe that everything you hear, read or see on the mainstream media during General Election periods represents all shades of opinions and is therefore wholly conducive to 'democracy'!

    I don't share your complacency but respect your right to believe what you think is right because I'm a democrat.

  • Comment number 6.

    #5. At 01:24am on 23 May 2010, Nick Vinehill wrote:

    "You clearly believe that everything you hear, read or see on the mainstream media during General Election periods represents all shades of opinions"

    Of course not but that doesn't mean I welcome throwing the baby out with the bath water, whilst the mainstream media has many faults we (as a nation) are far better informed of politics now than we have ever been, I for one would not welcome a return to town hall 'soapbox' hustings.

    "I don't share your complacency but respect your right to believe what you think is right because I'm a democrat."

    Actually, if I understand the gist of your argumnent (as laid out @ #3), and apologies if I have got the wrong end of the argument, you seem to be suggesting that true democracy is 600 odd independent MPs, that is not a functioning democracy but just a recipe for 'Chaos Theory' politics, hardly democratic.

  • Comment number 7.

    Yes you have got the wrong end of my argument but that's probably my fault for not stating it clearly.

    Quite simply I think the whole process of Parliamentary Democracy and 4/5 yearly elections is a very patronising and limited form of democracy the ultimate purpose of which is to keep the majority of the apathetic British public out of political debate altogether.

  • Comment number 8.

    7. At 11:29pm on 24 May 2010, Nick Vinehill wrote:

    "Quite simply I think the whole process of Parliamentary Democracy and 4/5 yearly elections is a very patronising and limited form of democracy the ultimate purpose of which is to keep the majority of the apathetic British public out of political debate altogether."

    Having just read the above I think I was right first time about your ideas about democracy, more frequent elections or constant referenda would be as unstable as 600 odd independent MPs. Government is as much about long term planing as it is about deciding what will happen next month, and would be just as much a recipe for 'Chaos Theory' politics. Referenda work in certain countries, such as Switzerland, because they have very stable economies and a small electorate/population, something that the UK can only dream of...

 

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