On the Record
6 Oct 2012
Constituents sometimes write to me, complaining about political bias on the BBC. Usually those complaints come from those on the right of the spectrum, who believe that the Corporation is run by disciples of Karl Marx, hell bent on undermining our constitution. There may be constituents on the left who believe that Broadcasting House has been occupied by descendants of Attila the Hun who support the forces of reaction, but those constituents have never written to me. Perhaps they fear this would be a waste of time, as a Conservative MP must come from the same gene pool as Attila.
For what it is worth, I believe the BBC is on the whole fair. There may be occasional lapses of judgement but, taken over a period, I believe they are neutral – if anything, being slightly tougher on whichever party happens to be in power. My principal complaint about the BBC is that the sound engineers who fix the microphone inside my shirt have cold hands.
I have just discovered the extreme steps the Corporation takes to prevent political contamination through its programmes. I was recently invited to record a programme for Radio 3 which goes out on a Sunday. It was a pleasure to go to a recording studio and not be skewered for something the Government had done, but to discuss my choice of music. (The programme is not unlike Desert Island Discs, but longer, and with no Bible, Shakespeare or luxuries.) I had intended to kick off with Charles Penrose’s rendition of The Laughing Policeman, but put the red pencil through that selection on the grounds that it would offend the sensitive ears of the Radio 3 listener and have them reaching for the zapper and missing my more up-market choices. And possibly complaining to the BBC.
After the recording, I asked when the pleasant exchange I had just taken part in might reach the wider audience it deserved. The independent producer was anxious that it should go out soon, but the BBC has decreed otherwise. You will not hear it for some time.. Although nothing remotely party political was mentioned during the programme, because I happen to be a politician the programme could not go out during the Party Conference season. Then there was likely to be a by-election; and then there were the Police and Crime Commissioner elections, during all of which there was an embargo on politicians appearing before lunch on a Sunday to talk about music.
So we must await a break in the political clouds until the sunshine of my views on music can beam through.
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