I’ve just received an email about a broadcast of Radio 4’s Any Questions? programme, which follows largely the same format as its better-known offshoot Question Time.
The broadcast, to take place on Friday 7th January 2010, will feature Ken Livingstone, Michael Portillo, Matthew Parris and Vivienne Westwood. A colourful bunch, no doubt, but does something strike you as odd like it did with me?
While there’s no doubt as to the affiliation of Ken Livingstone, it is worth noting that the other three – Westwood, Parris and Portillo – are all supporters of the Conservative party (ironically, it is perhaps with Portillo, the most prominently Tory of the lot, that there is the slightest hint of wavering from this).
That’s right: three Tories vs. one Labour. No doubt that Parris and Westwood have their own angles of journalism / fashion to bring to the table, but it’s worth remembering that this programme is pretty much dominated by politics.
So this matters firstly in terms of airtime. It simply isn’t fair for the supporters of one party to get three times as much time as those of the other.
Also, the individual characters of Westwood, Portillo and Parris had better make up for the boredom of hearing similar positions over and over. At least it’s not three Lib Dems – we can hope for some dissent from Cameron dictat in comparison with the not-so-liberal way they seem to rally round Clegg.
But do the BBC see that it’s not only unfair, but also unwise in the interest of their programme? I’ve been to a few of these broadcasts myself, and from my experience, they rely on contrasting ideological views to make interesting debate and listening. While this panel features perhaps three of the best of celebrity politics, I’m not convinced we’ll get that clash when they all support the same party.