27 September 2011

Andrew Neil plays snakes & ladders with Ed Balls before picking up a scalpel

Last night, after watching The Daily Politics show on BBC2, I posted a couple of tweets on Twitter that would hardly have come as a surprise to regular readers of this blog:
  1. "Just watched @afneil 'review' of #Lab11 - i.e. pitifully short extracts from speeches + long/boring interviews."
  2. "If I were Ed Balls, I'd think twice about playing such a long game of snakes & ladders with @afneil"
The tweets, of course, reflect my concern about the way in which British politicians seem to have conceded control of political communication in the UK to the broadcasting media - by going along with the latter's preference for devoting more and more airtime to interviews and less and less to excerpts from speeches, even though interviews seldom deliver anything other than bad news and negative impressions of politicians (for reasons explained in more detail HERE).

A new weapon: media autopsies of media interviews
The diversification of communication in the digital age means that celebrity media interviewers can now carry out their own post-mortems on their own interviews to search out any errors an interviewee (or should that be 'victim') might have made while walking so obligingly along the tightrope prepared for them by the all-powerful broadcasters.

If it then turns out that the politician did indeed land on a snake in the just-completed game of snakes and ladders, the interviewer can start tweeting and blogging about it to their heart's content.

Balls goes under the reporter's knife
And so it was, after the interview was over, out came the pathologist's report, starting as follows (full version HERE):

"I interviewed Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls on the Daily Politics Conference Special on Monday, live from Liverpool, the moment he'd finished speaking to the Labour conference.

"In the course of our usual robust exchange, which we both enjoy, he made a couple of claims that I knew I would have to investigate more thoroughly. And I have! ..." (continued: HERE).

A clearer dividing line between comment and reportage?
I concluded Politicians and broadcasters in the UK: collaboration or capitulation? by explaining why I think the changes that have been taking place matter:

'..whatever the impact of the current conventional wisdom on media coverage has on the reputations of our politicians, we can at least vote them out of power.

'That is something we cannot do with the executives, producers, editors and journalists who control and determine what we're allowed to see of political debate. Although we like to think we live in a democracy, when it comes to hearing about how it's working, we're at the mercy of an unelected and unaccountable band of professional broadcasters and journalists.

'And that's why I think that the current situation not only does matter, but is also something that we should be worrying about - and why I also think that it's high time for a serious debate between everyone involved, including and especially us, the general public.'

If ever such a debate does get under way, another question we should be also be asking is: how worried should we be if the dividing line between between media reportage and media comment is becoming progressively more blurred?

Conference season 2011 blogging update:

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