7 July 2011

96% of BBC television news of phone-hacking ignored the House of Commons debate

My optimism about the televising of the phone-hacking debate in the House of Commons yesterday was, as I feared, short-lived (HERE). I'd ended my post on it with an open question about Chris Bryant, M.P., whose speech had opened proceedings.

"Whether or not we'll get to see any more of him (or any of the other speakers in the debate) on prime-time television news programmes tonight, of course, remains to be seen..."

Answer = 36 seconds
Impressive speech though Bryant's may have been, only 14 seconds of it made it on to BBC 's News at 10 last night (still available HERE on iPlayer). And all we got to see from the other speakers in the debate was 22 seconds of the speech by Tom Watson, M.P. Of the Attorney General's speech, we saw 0 seconds.

So a paltry 4% of the 15 minutes of news devoted to the News of the World phone-hacking scandal came from the important debate between our elected members of parliament.

PMQs more important than a proper parliamentary debate?
If the weekly exchanges between the prime minister and leader of the opposition count as 'speeches', the BBC showed us more than twice as much of Cameron (46 seconds) and Miliband (38 seconds) in action than of Bryant and Watson in the main debate - i.e. nearly 10% of the 15 minutes on phone-hacking.

And this is one of the (many) things that strikes me as so depressing about the media's coverage of politics. Compared with the rowdy Punch & Judy show of prime minister's question time, yesterday's debate (on the same subject) showed our MPs at their best - making serious and carefully argued points in a very reasonable and civilised manner.

With the BBC preferring to broadcast (at our expense) rowdiness rather than reason from the House of Commons, is it any wonder that our politicians are held in such low repute?

Meanwhile, "the BBC encourages you to embed its video and audio on your website" (as we're told in the instructions at Democracy Live).

This raises the interesting question of whether the BBC has decided not to bother showing much from speeches on its prime-time news programmes because anyone with a computer can watch the whole 3 hour debate online (as here):

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