Saturday, 9 June 2018

Has the BBC given up on balance?

Mark Carruthers
I watched The View on Thursday night and in particular Mark Carruthers interviewing Peter Robinson about a lecture he had given at Queen's University. 

Mark tried to needle him, repeatedly, more so as time went on, trying to drive a wedge into the DUP but Peter Robinson was the measure of him and answered in a way that was calm and measured

After that Mark Carruthers moved on to the two commentators in 'commentators' corner' and it was two of the regulars, Alex Kane and Fionnuala O'Connor, who were there, Mark told us, 'to run an expert eye over another week'.

Alex Kane
Alex Kane, a former director of communications with the Ulster Unionist Party and now a columnist in the Irish News, was broadly dismissive of what Robinson had said.

Meanwhile the veteran journalist Fionnuala O'Connor, who is also a columnist in the Irish News, was downright disparaging of Peter Robinson, playing the man rather than the ball. and bypassing the content of the lecture.  She was equally disparaging towards Arlene Foster.

(I say 'veteran' because about forty years ago I was described by Fionnuala in a newspaper article as 'a fresh-faced bespectacled young man', the only time in my life I was ever described as 'bespectacled', and it stuck in my mind.)

Fionnuala O'Connor
Of course, being 'commentators corner' neither Alex nor Fionnuala were ever really challenged by Mark Carruthers.

Alex Kane used the word 'stupid' and Fionnuala used the word 'struggling'.

So there it was and I wondered if The View has just given up altogether on balance and breadth of views.

Now to be fair, the female commentator isn't always Fionnuala O'Connor.  Some times it's Allison Morris, who also writes for the Irish News and prior to that the Andersonstown News, and sometimes it's Professor Deirdre Heenan from the Ulster University in Londonderry.

But in the little world that is 'commentators' corner', some things never really change and that includes the relentless negativity week after week.

That's why I usually watch the Sky News 'Press Review' each night at 10.30.  One of the delights of that programme is that they manage to provide a real variety of views, from right across the political spectrum.  Kevin Maguire and Andrew Pierce can argue the bit out, in a humorous and good-natured way, and they also use Dan Hodges, Julia Hartley-Brewer, Polly McKenzie, director of Demos, Labour supporter Susie Boniface and  Conservative commentator Alex Deane..  

Andrew Pierce and Kevin Maguire
They even have a good range of committed Brexiteer commentators on the programme, including Brendan O'Neill from Spiked Online,  and Carole Malone.  This is especially important when Brexit is such a controversial issue in British politics. It is even more significant in Northern Ireland politics.

As a result, it's interesting, it's intelligent, it's engaging and it's informative.  It's generally bright and rarely boring and that's the way it should be.


  1. Al Jazeera and RT are way better. BBC impartiality was always a myth.

  2. Al Jazeera and RT are about as impartial as the Andersonstown News.


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