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Monday, 12 January 2015

The Explanatory Deficit

Since the establishment of the toothless BBC Trust, upon my work-worn shoulders has fallen the burden of policing standards of quality at the Beeb. You might consider the broadcaster to be falling horribly short of the Reithian ideal, self-serving, its current-affairs programmes riddled with cliché, inaccuracy, speculation, and bias, recycling the same jaded 'talent' from one presenter slot to the next. I readily concede those criticisms and more, but I have to tell you that the performance of the BBC would be even worse (types the words with prodding fingertips for added emphasis) were it not for my unceasing vigilance and my readiness to write letters of the sternest tone.

In this very blog I have reported examples of one of the cardinal vices of news programming on Radio 4, namely the practice of summarising a subject to the point at which the summary becomes essentially ambiguous. Alert readers will recall the report of the 'rotating' workers at the crippled Fukoshima nuclear plant (see 'Japanese in a Spin').

A comparable case arose on the Radio 4 news this morning, which announced that David Cameron had made tackling 'the deficit' his top priority. Which deficit might that be? The deficit of midwives, of hospital beds, of seats on trains, of prison space, of border police, of competent managers of government IT projects, of housing, of honesty among our politicians, of transport infrastructure, of engineering apprentices, of girls studying physics, of original and innovative programmes on the BBC, of anything decent to watch on telly notwithstanding 763 Freeview channels, of teachers, of grit for the roads, of water in summer, of parking spaces, of visionary charismatic leaders... we in Britain enjoy such a magnificent panoply of deficits, how is the listener meant to know which is the target of Mr Cameron's top priority?

Up the Sushing sleeves are about to be rolled for a suitably lambasting letter to be typed, and you would not want to be in Tony Hall's shoes or seat when that baby hits the in-tray.

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