Friday, November 5, 2010

'Nation' shall speak war unto 'region'

Just a few more thoughts on the furore over last week's Question Time in Glasgow. I originally wrote the following as a response to Tris on the previous thread, but I thought I might as well devote a fresh post to it :

It's striking that Audience Services' response to BellgroveBelle (and others) again seeks to draw a black-and-white distinction between the 'national' issues that are appropriate to discuss before a UK-wide audience and the 'regional' issues that are not - without ever explaining how they actually go about defining a 'national' issue, which is where the nub of this problem actually lies. Based on what we've seen over the last two weeks, the only possible interpretation is that Question Time policy is to define matters relating solely to England as 'national', and therefore by definition of interest to viewers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - but to define matters relating solely to Scotland as 'regional', and therefore of no conceivable interest to viewers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. (That would be consistent with the example I gave last week of David Dimbleby perversely referring to the English rules on DNA retention as the "United Kingdom position".)

Now, a bright three-year-old could spot the gaping hole in that logic, but nevertheless there can be little doubt that's the policy. Wouldn't it be helpful, therefore, if the programme-makers stated it out loud, tried to defend it (God knows how), and let others take issue with it in an open debate? Instead, it's just 'out there' somewhere in the ether as the unspoken premise for their defence of last week's show - a premise they apparently (and incredibly) feel is so self-evident they don't even need to bother justifying it.

UPDATE : I see that BellgroveBelle has sent off a complaint about last night's show as well, asking for an explanation of how discussions about English tuition fees and the US midterm elections could possibly be deemed appropriate in the light of last week's ruling from Dimbleby that only matters of relevance to a "UK audience" could be raised. Now, what do you want to bet that, if she receives a personal response at all, it'll strategically pretend not to notice the tuition fees point (which genuinely is unanswerable) and deal with the American example instead?


  1. I would have grudgingly accepted it if they had mentioned that the University funding/fees issue was different in Scotland. It could have been noted that the Lib Dems had called them non-negotiable in 1999, and then negotiated them into coalition. They have form!

  2. Yes, I don't even have any problem with them talking about English tuition fees without reference to the sitaution in Scotland (as long as they clarify that it's only England they're talking about) but if they choose to do so it makes a complete and utter nonsense of the ruling - reiterated in the letter to you - that only "UK-wide" issues are appropriate.