Monday, January 04, 2010

Boring the Voters Rigid

I did a turn on GMTV this morning with Jessica Asato on Progress. We were there to talk about the coming election. We had three minutes to talk about this subject. To be fair, we were told that's what we'd get and I suppose as GMTV has so many viewers they have a winning formula. But what on earth can you say in that amount of time? With the time taken for Penny Smith to ask the questions Jessica and I got barely over a minute each. She gave fairly rehearsed 'on message' answers and even though I tried to be a little more relaxed I'm not sure how it worked. I never know what I am going to say until I say it - perhaps I should confirm more.

But this format demonstrates why politicians go into this sort of interview with one point to make, and they will make it whatever they are asked.

Theresa May was doing the early morning round of TV and radio interview today. She followed us on GMTV and then appeared later on Sky News and with Jessica on LBC on the Nick Ferrari Show. She will have had one or two points which she will have made in each interview. Just as Alistair Darling will do when he does the interview round following his press conference this morning.

Somehow we have got to break out of this sterile form of political media. If we have four or five months of it I doubt whether anyone will be inspired to go out and vote because they will have been bored rigid.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Another couple of visitors from the plant Zog!!!

Shinsei said...

I agree that these soundbites sound sterile and boring to those who follow politics closely, but they aren't aimed at the type of people who read a number of papers every day and follow politics on the net.

The sort of people who read your blog or ConservativeHome (or the Labour or LidDem equivalents) have views on whether Chris Grayling is doing better than Philip Hammond but 95% of the population don't have a clue even who these people are.

Jason O'Mahony said...

Well said, Iain. The other problem is that modern politicians are terrified of making "mistakes" (i.e. giving an off-message opinion) and then getting savaged for it by the media. And it is a media thing. It is quite normal for people to have a discussion, and to change an opinion after new facts are presented ( I know I have.) yet the media portray politicians who waver at all from a fixed position as weak or engaged in a u-turn, or suggest a "split". As a result it is safer to stick to the talking point, despite the fact that it turns voters off.

Jessica Asato said...

I completely agree with you Iain. But you can't say anything interesting in a minute. Neither can you say anything nuanced when the format is designed in a way that both of us are there to defend our respective political positions.

I like the fact you thought I was on message. Just for the record I received no message to give for GMTV or LBC. I guess I'm just a naturally "on message" person which is a disappointment to me, though I think you'll find looking at the campaigns Progress has run over the last year, that's not necessarily the case...

Iain Dale said...

Jessica, Believe it or not, when I was talking to LBC about you I said you were good because you were not always 'on message'!

ukipwebmaster said...

Perhaps this will cure the boredom?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbXgkJv3pTY

ianbeag said...

The increasingly compressed sound bite nature of UK broadcasting, especially in news and current affairs programmes is the reason why I and many others find news coverage on France 24, Russia Today, Euronews and Al Jazeera much more informative than coverage of international news items from our own National broadcasters who assume viewers and lsiteners have a maximum listening span of 20 seconds. Pity about that.

jbw said...

Iain said

"Somehow we have got to break out of this sterile form of political media. If we have four or five months of it I doubt whether anyone will be inspired to go out and vote because they will have been bored rigid."

Good grief - where have you been - its been like this for years now. Thank god for remote controls.

Moriarty said...

Who thinks Chris Grayling is doing better than Philip Hammond? I can't form a view....

Sunray said...

Iain, nice to see you on GMTV this morning. I am glad that you were interviwed by Penny and not by Labour Luvvie John Stapleton. He is marginally less successful at keeping his political allegiance hidden than he is at keeping quiet about which football team he supports.

Anonymous said...

If the Tories get in I'm afraid that three minute interviews on ITV could be a thing of the past.

After all, they are in favour of reducing the public service requirements of ITV, of which current affairs and news is undoubtedly a part.

We'll just have product placement celebs talking at us instead and no political discourse, nevermind just sound bites.

Maybe the Tory idea for a US style head-to-head political TV debate might help some?

Demetrius said...

The election campaign has now been running almost one day. I am already bored and ready to switch off.

John said...

You are lucky Iain.

I had to suffer Ed Balls on BBC Breakfast being interview by Susanna Reid. He twisted all his replies to put out the message that the voters need to choose between New Labour investments in education and Tory cuts.

Susanna Reid let him get away with this when she, quite rightly, asked him how they were going to pay for it.

Some serious journalist must ask Balls, Brown and Darling how the 3 proposed tax rises (50% top rate, 1% NI and ending of pension tax relief) plus the one-off bankers bonus tax - about $8 billion in total - are going to cut the £186 billion deficit in half in four years.

John said...

@ianbeag

You are right, or course.

However, isn't if funny that when a story breaks (such as that coach crash in Cornwall a couple of weeks ago) we get wall to wall coverage even though the story-line is not developing? The presenter in the studio does a 2-way with the reporter at the scene. Neither of them know much yet they spend hours with this sort of coverage.

I remember watching, on Sky News, live coverage of the police car being pulled out of the ditch. I don't know which was worse; them broadcasting it or me watching it!!!

Yet they cram what I regard as serious items into less than a minute, as you say.

I watch Sky more than BBC News now as I feel that the BBC are worse.

I've totally given up on BBC Radio 5 Live as they often cut a news item short and apologise then spend 2 minutes reading out 'witty' texts. It's now the World Service for me.

Anonymous said...

Iain
You may have enjoyed being interviewed by Peter Allen but as a conservative, I hope you are a little robust in your arguments than you were on Radio Five Live.
I'm sure your not beyond a little criticism?

Iain Dale said...

Well, feel free to critise where you think I went wrong, then!

50 Calibre said...

I'm bored stiff with it all, now...

Anonymous said...

Why not get rid of the professional interviewers and let Baroness James get on with it? Let her do to politicians what she did to Mark Thompson. Now, that would make for some refreshing interviews.

Fausty said...

I can't understand why Theresa May is Cameron's darling. She is so off-putting. Can he not see that?

I had lunch with her in 2005 while in my Conservative activist mode. Even as an avid Tory, I found her off-putting!

(It's UKIP for me now).

Osama the Nazarene said...

The BBC, and more specifically 5 Live, used to have a regular phone in with a different party representative quizzed by the public each day during the election campaign. They've dropped that in favour of lame phone-ins on whether footballers should be allowed to wear pink football boots with Campbell officiating.

All politics is being dumbed down. You're lucky you got a minute, normally its 30 seconds and move on because the poor public will get bored!!!

Peter Durward Harris said...

Although I usually vote Conservate, I'll be abstaining this year. I'm unemployed and David Cameron has made it clear that he regards unemployed people with contempt. He is obsessed with the same type of ill-conceived forced work schemes that we've had for the past few years. Some of his pronouncements suggest that life for the unemployed will be even worse under him than they already are. Too many politicians blame the unemployed without studying the issues. Contrary to the mythology, forcing me to earn my benefit by making me do work I'm useless at won't force me back to a paid job, because while some employers (usually charities) will take the government's money to put up with unsuitable people, no employer will pay people who can't do the job. And there's the problem. I'm not unemployable in the true sense of the word. There are jobs that I could do given the chance, but the forced work schemes are limited to manual labouring jobs that I'm not capable of doing effectively.

Dimoto said...

I thought it was standard media training to select one or two points, then make them whatever the questions asked.

I always find Theresa May wholly unpersuasive though nice enough.
Is there any evidence that she has any impact with the electorate ?

Dimoto said...

ianbeag, I agree, but you should try NHK (Japan).

neil craig said...

You are absolutely right about how this format used by the media makes anything but dumbed down politics extremely difficult. The several people each gets a one sentence soundbite structure is inane. The pattern of a formal debate - 3 speakers from each side, turn about, each getting just over 5 minutes to make their points & rebut opponents has been refined over the centuries because it works as both information & entertainment.

Such debates on global warming have been routinely persuasive for the sceptical side & would work on everyhting from what % of the economy should be government spending or EU membership to electoral reform or the credibility of the SDrebrenica massacre story. Itb is possible that the election debates may show some of this potential but I suspect that a it is more likely to be rather longer soundbites chosen by the usual suspect TV commentators.

The fact that the BBC & ITN refuse to even consider a 1 hour serious debate on anything (it would cost less than any edition of Question Time since it doesn't need fronted by a "personality") suggests to me they know it would work.