Broadcasters are too obsessed with political trivia, the BBC’s former editorial director has said, while condemning the Government boycott of the Today programme.
Roger Mosey was editor of Today and head of television news during his career at the BBC.
He said the Government’s decision to withhold ministers from the BBC’s flagship Radio 4 programme was “anti-democratic bullying”.
Some examples, where ministers have spoken to other broadcasters, “shows the petty-mindedness, at best, or the anti-democratic bullying, at worst, of this administration,” he told Radio Times magazine.
“It is absurd to shut out millions of Today listeners from the views of elected officials,” he said.
“On the top stories, from terrorism to trade talks, there is an obligation to accountability that should include being grilled on the nation’s biggest daily current affairs programme.”
But Mosey warned that “broadcasters shouldn’t place their feet too firmly on the moral high ground”.
School students he talked to were “despairing of 2020’s line-up of politicians” but “weren’t fans of media coverage of politics, either”, which “seemed all to be about repetitive soundbites” and “a narrow range of topics that don’t interest them”.
Many older people share the view that the traditional media has been “obsessing too much about trivia and becoming trapped in the Westminster-dominated political circus”, he said.
The Master of Selwyn College, Cambridge, said that “political correspondents devote too much of their energy to topics they and their chums find enticing, such as who is up and who is down in a party leadership contest”.
He made the comments after outgoing BBC director-general Lord Hall told an audience he was “a great believer in the long-form political interview where you can explore at length, not in soundbites, the real policy decisions that politicians are making.”
The full article is in this week’s Radio Times magazine, out now.