Another Saturday, another tale of nonsense from the BBC.
This weekend, the state broadcaster has given us two upon which to grind our teeth.
First, the astonishing decision to axe the Janice Forsyth show from Saturday morning schedules. Now, I would admit that I only occasionally listen to it It’s on at an awkward time for me, I’m usually out the door by then, busy with bairns’ stuff. But when I do get the chance, well it’s pretty much perfect Saturday morning listening. Great choons, a witty and articulate presenter, interesting guests, good chat.
But the Saturday morning schedule does seem a bit jumbled. News review followed by sport review followed by a magazine show. The mix doesn’t quite gel, although maybe it doesn’t have to. Maybe if BBC Scotland was thinking about the diverse needs of its potential audiences, the mix hits the mark.
And it’s this issue that bothers me most about the decision. Where is the diversity in BBC Scotland’s approach? The plan is shockingly two-dimensional: chat through the day, music at night. Anything falling between those stools will be jettisoned. Our brains are so unsophisticated it would appear, that unless the BBC helpfully puts everything into wee boxes for us, we cannot cope. Words fail me.
I also can’t help suspecting that the BBC is guilty of some pretty unsophisticated thinking of its own – and it’s also fairly unsavoury. What kind of chat are we likely to get on a daytime schedule that is already dominated by sport – football in particular – and male voices? Hmm?
More innane wittering on about football? More blokes gathered in a cupboard joshing and puffing themselves and their opinions up?
Don’t get me wrong – I like my football, I love pottering about on a wet Saturday with my radio tuning in to matches. It is not unknown in my house for all the radios to be tuned to different matches simultaneously – it can be exhilirating if also confusing.
But that isn’t the point. It is simply unacceptable for the state broadcaster, paid for by the public purse, to exclude one half of the population from its daytime Saturday schedule. There are few enough female voices on Radio Scotland these days – even though there is no shortage of excellent female journalists and broadcasters in this country – without a whole day being allowed to become male dominated. Moreover, since when did the whole population “like” sport and only want sport from one half of the weekend schedule?
I may, of course, be getting ahead of myself. Maybe the slot will be filled by a chat magazine show that discusses “women’s issues” – a kind of Caledonian women’s hour. Now that would be interesting. Or a politics discussion show with only women participating – again, an interesting concept. Or at the very least maybe it will be a show fronted by a woman talking about stuff other than sport. But I hae ma doots.
In any event, this, and the storm of protest on Twitter this morning, is a shot across BBC Scotland’s bows. If the plan was to fill the Saturday morning airwaves with more innane football drivel and remove a woman from the slot and replace her with a man, well they might want to tear it up and think again.
But this is not the only example of bizarre BBC-ery (it almost deserves a noun in its own right; for meaning, think fuckwittery). After arranging for the First Minister, Alex Salmond, to appear on its big build-up to the Calcutta Cup match this evening, the BBC has pulled the plug. Apparently, it’s too politically sensitive a time, too close to the local government elections (still more than three months away) to have a Scottish politician on the telly talking about rugby and what the match means to Scotland.
Now, those who object to any politician getting involved in talking about sport or muscling in on any big sporting occasion have a point. There is a principled case for keeping it all very separate and therefore, avoiding the possibility of stumbling into delicate territory. But a blogpost on the pros and cons of the relationship between sport and politics is for another day.
And this would be fine if the BBC was in any way principled about this but it isn’t. There have been plenty of times when politicians have been allowed, nay encouraged to be involved in big sporting occasions. Olympics anyone? Indeed, it’s not just politicians: look at how fawning everyone is when a Royal deigns to mix it with the hoi polloi on mass participation activity. Just like the Royals, politicians do this cos it’s populist and popular. And the BBC has always enabled it – until now.
The final point is that Alex Salmond is not just any other politician. He is the elected First Minister of Scotland, our highest public representative and it is entirely within his job description to appear on the telly on the day of a big sporting occasion and talk about his hopes for a Scotland win but probably – as he would have done – about what such an occasion brings to Scotland and means economically and socially to Edinburgh, in particular. Some may not like it because it’s Alex Salmond getting to comment on all of this, but that is his role, just as it would be Johann Lamont’s if she were First Minister.
The excuses trotted out by the BBC are paltry and small-minded and belittle Scotland. There is a place for our First Minister, whatever his or her hue, to be part of the coverage of today, until and unless it changes its policy and produces a blanket ban on ALL politicians and public figures (including Royalty) appearing on its platforms in connection with big sporting occasions.
But maybe, you don’t agree? Then vote!
And in the interests of fairness, here is the question framed differently