Is a lecture by Bill Gates (or anyone else) good television?

I don't often repeat blogs verbatim, but watching Bill Gates giving this year's Richard Dimbleby Lecture (HERE) reminded me of a question I asked two years ago that still baffles me and is still awaiting an answer, namely: 

Why does the BBC commemorate Richard Dimbleby with a televised lecture?

My thoughts from two years ago remain pretty much unchanged:

'Last night's Richard Dimbleby Lecture on BBC 1 was delivered by Michael Morpurgo, the latest in a long and distinguished line of famous people to have done so every year (except four) since 1972 (full list HERE).

'But what baffles me about this annual event is how and why the BBC ever decided that the most suitable memorial to a celebrated broadcaster would be something as ill-suited to television as a lecture.

'Wouldn't an annual Dimbleby Documentary, Dimbleby Debate or Dimbleby Interview have been a more fitting way to remember a current affairs journalist? After all, these were not only the kinds of things he was best known for, but would have come across better on television than celebrities, many of whom have little or no experience of lecturing, standing behind a lectern and talking for rather a long time.

'Given the BBC's increasing reluctance to show even very short extracts from political speeches in their news programmes (on which there's more discussion and links HERE and HERE), it strikes me as rather odd that the Dimbleby lecture has been allowed to carry on in its original format.

'So far, I've been unable to find out anything about why the BBC (or who) decided in the first place that a lecture would be the best way to commemorate his life - and would be interested to hear from anyone who knows something about its history.'

Cameron on Europe: a press release thinly disguised as a speech

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Finding out when and where David Cameron's much-trailed speech on Europe was taking place today posed at least as much of a challenge as working out what the point of it all was.

What I eventually discovered was that that both the when and the where of the speech were quite unusual - unless it's suddenly become fashionable for our politicians to deliver major speeches at 8.00 a.m. in the morning on the off chance that the American news agency in central London (where the speech was being given) would be able to drum up an audience at a moment's notice to listen to it - or, to be more precise, to prepare reports on what he said for the rest of the day's news programmes.

Who was there?
From the above, there's very little evidence that anyone was there at all: no coughing or sneezing and not so much as a hint of applause at the end of the speech.

Yet there were, of course plenty of people there, not supporters who might have cheered or clapped, but representatives of the media busily writing notes on what he was saying - while he was saying it (which keen 'listeners' could follow live, as the words came out of his mouth, on the BBC website HERE).

Speech or press release?
So does this really count as a political 'speech' delivered by a leading politician, or was it merely a case of a leading politician taking the trouble to read out a press release - on the grounds that no one would  take any notice of it unless it were disguised, however thinly, as 'a speech'?

And are we going to have to put up with more and more such non-speeches as the stock-in-trade of contemporary political communication?

Should we have the right to bear arms during a speech?

Yesterday's news that someone had interrupted a Bulgarian politician's speech by mounting the stage and pointing a gun at him made me realise how little I know about Bulgarian politics - as well as how unusual (thankfully) it is for audiences to respond to speeches in this particular way.

I also realised that I have no idea as to whether or not the Bulgarian constitution enshrines the right of its citizens "to bear arms", or indeed to beat up anyone whose gun fails to go off at point blank range.

Needless to say, I hope that neither of these rights is enjoyed by Bulgarians, and, more importantly, that such trends do not catch on in the USA...

Lance Armstrong's 'straight' answers to Oprah's Yes/No questions

Having never previously seen any Oprah Winfrey interviews, I've no idea whether her interviewees have to agree beforehand to answer any "Yes/No" questions she might ask with a straight "Yes" or "No".

But that's what disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong did in this sequence from his interview with her.

Whether or not it was not the way she had expected him to confess, as she'd said in her trailers for the show, I do not know. I do know, however, that to my English ears, such apparently straight answers to a series of "Yes/No" questions definitely qualifies it for a place my collection of unusual TV interviews.

Examples of Other Unusual Interviews

  • Politician answers a question: an exception that proves the rule
  • A Labour leader with no interest in spin!
  • A Tory leader's three evasive answers to the same question
  • The day Mrs Thatcher apologised (twice) for what she'd said in an interview
  • A prime minister who openly refused to answer Robin Day's questions
  • 'Here today, gone tomorrow' politician walks out of interview with Robin Day
  • The day Mandelson walked out of an interview rather than answer a question about Gordon Brown
  • Mandelson gives two straight answers to two of Paxman's questions
  • Two more straight answers from Mandelson - about failed coups and the PM's rages
  • Rare video clip of a politician giving 5 straight answers to 5 consecutive questions