If people don't articulate their views, how can a broadcaster be expected to represent them?

Why is the alternative to 'The Westminster Bubble' always the populism of a very engaged minority of citizens, rather than the equivocation of the majority of voters?

Share
Related Topics

It seems that the BBC has a liberal bias as the media gobbets fly from The Prebble Report into BBC impartiality. The report itself is more equivocal and for advocates of populist politics, the opportunity to fulminate has been too good to miss.

Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, said: “The BBC are in a state of denial, they don’t even realise they are being biased. They come from the same, metropolitan mindset and are out of touch with the public mood.”

Even the BBC’s own Helen Boaden told the review that the Corporation had failed to take anti-immigration lobby groups seriously enough as eastern European immigrant numbers started to spike in 2004.

One important question was left unasked, however. Is a louder, less complicated line of Euroscepticism and anti-immigration the only alternative to Westminster orthodoxy? Is it really the case that calling oneself a member of the ‘silent majority’ proof that you really belong to that group?

The BBC may have overlooked the views of some sections of the population, but are they really those views that are widely expressed in tabloid editorials, MPs mailbags and by panellists on Question Time?

It’s far more likely that the viewpoints that are least represented are those of the true silent majority – those people who don’t write to Editors or MPs, watch political panel shows or take part in consultations or demonstrations?

There are many people who lack the certainty or passion to make their points effectively. Some don’t have the opportunity because of other commitments; a woman working a nightshift and caring for an elderly relative, for example, or a man trying urgently to re-calibrate his work skills and avoid obsolescence. They will rarely be in a position to bellow political convictions.

Yet these people far outnumber the vociferous minority. And if so, it begs the question: If people won’t articulate their views, or interest others in them, how can a broadcaster be expected to tune in and amplify them?

Anthony Zacharzewski of The Democratic Society sees this as a problem that can be overcome with an updated route to participation.

“Of course people with mild preferences or with few opportunities to participate in politics are harder to involve, but there are plenty of ways that we can tune in to these voters. If we want to involve them in decision-making, we can create games or role-playing exercises. We can find the sort of budget that we’d need to be able to negotiate paid time-off work for a random representative sample that could make up a ‘citizens jury’ on key issues.”

More to the point, participation isn’t all about deciding outcomes. The maligned but blossoming lobbying industry is there to ensure that their clients are well represented when the description of a problem is being agreed.

Dr Andy Williamson, a consultant on digital engagement sees opportunity for harnessing help to ensure that democratic institutions can receive evidence from a wider circle than the current ‘Westminster bubble’:

“You can involve schools and pupils in the visualisation of local open data – remove the monopoly that pressure groups and activists have over the presentation of evidence. You can create collaborative authoring processes that can involve a lot of people who are only able to dip in very briefly to ensure that their evidence and issues are registering”

If the BBC wanted to set itself an impartiality challenge, there are numerous ways that it could start to engage with the mild preferences. That would surely be a very attractive challenge to a corporation that needs to clearly define what it means by impartiality for a baying critics section. More significantly, many people would welcome the reassurance of the BBC straightening its shoulders and once again stepping out as the trusted representative of the nation.

This is not just about fairness either. It’s about good governance. Do we really believe that political discourse, monopolised by shouty, simplistic rhetoric results in good policies? As Yeats put it in his ‘Second Coming’…

"The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity"

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Whoever and whatever Arthur was, he wasn’t Scottish

Guy Keleny
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea