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More horse’s mouth, less Beeb blah please

Posted on 4 September 2009 | 10:09pm

Keen to find out what Gordon Brown said in his speech about Afghanistan, I tuned into the BBC News Channel at 9pm. What bits I saw seemed good. Clear about why our troops are there. Clear about the link to life here. It cannot be stated often enough.

And to be fair, in total there were ten minutes devoted to Afghanistan. But –  and I did not have my stopwatch running – a relatively small percentage of that wert on telling us what GB actually said. Obviously there had to be reporting of the many casualties of the Nato bombing of oil tankers. Equally, there was bound to be coverage of the return home of two more British soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

But did we really need, in addition to the usual Nick Robinson homilies, a two-way from a BBC reporter that can generously be described as an incoherent ramble. The presenter in the studio asked him something along the lines of whether Gordon Brown had done a good job of persuading his critics – as though this young reporter, who I confess I have never seen before, and whose name I did not catch – was somehow the great judge on these matters.

When will the broadcasters learn that when they have 24 hours worth of space to fill, more of it might be filled the comments of the news-makers, not just the analysis of the news-gatherers? When I have said this about importanrt speeches before, they usually come back with a reminder that the whole speech was covered live, which I assume this one was. But the vast bulk of people interested in it will not have seen it live. There is then a duty, particulalry on a public service broadcaster, to ensure proper, extensive coverage throughout the rest of the day.

Ten minutes qualifies as exrensive in today’s terms, certainly. But I don’t think the speech got the treatment it merited, given the subject, the timing, and its current importance. I shall now go and read it in full.

  • Chas

    Didn’t see but agree it is infuriating the way they assume all we want to hear is what they think. There are one or two voices who have experience and a bit of gravitas and are worth listening to. But the idea that every tom dick or harry who works for the BBC has great wisdom and knowledge is plain wrong

  • Alan Hardy

    I’m not sure he did make the case that well. And he certainly has not been making it well over the piece. When troops are engaged in war, the Prime Minister of the day must be out there explaining all the time. I am sure your old boss would have done

  • Helene Pearson

    Sky just as bad. I’ll let you off though, as you gave them a bit of a kicking earlier in the week. The problem is they assume once they know something, or they have heard something, everyone has. They get bored too soon

  • @jlocke13

    “a safer Afghanistan means a safer Britain..” The premise is flawed, in fact it is probable that the opposite is true…The UK has been sucked into an un-winnable war…He should know with his government’s experience in Northern Ireland that terrorists will never be beaten by war and in the end it will come down to negotiating with the Taliban.. and this could take 30 years…. how many more cortèges driving through Wooton Basset will the British public accept before withdrawal becomes politically necessary?

  • Alexandra MacKay Binnie

    I think it is time for Nick Robinson to be replaced. After so many good political commentators( who didn’t show their colours )his appointment was a disaster.

  • Alex Sewell

    I definately agree with you re broadcasters learning to broadcast the news-makers more than the news-gatherers. I also find Nick Robinson quite boring on TV and he must be very frustrated with Robert Peston having poached most of his market share of political news on the BBC. However he did redeem himself somewhat, I thought, with his program ‘Moats, Mortgages and Mayhem’, still on bbc iplayer and well worth the listen. Nick Robinson speaks from the heart I think and seems more human rather than monotone.

    The whole world seems to have turned against GB, including the BBC, but you might be in part to blame for that Alastaire. Afterall it was you who got Greg Dyke fired from the BBC and replaced by a right-winger.

    So in a not so small part, you have added to the downfall of your own party by installing by default somebody at the head of the BBC who is encouraging people to vote for the volves in sheep’s clothing, David Cameron and his nasty party.

    I know you and Tony Blaire did some great things for the country but that wasn’t one of them.

  • Peter O\’Connor


    Totally agree. I’m a current and long-standing government senior press officer. I wouldn’t mind if they followed a Gordon Brown speech, or other ministerial speech, with acres of analysis, but they too often show a snippet of the actual speech and then “what Nick Robinson thought of it.” Happens on the Today programme, too.