Wednesday, January 23, 2008

PSBs, plurality, Andrew Marr ... in Windsor

It was a busy weekend and hasn’t slowed up since.

There was the small matter of seven bookcases to assemble and fill while the rest of the family scooted across to Gloucester for a long weekend. Except I was off to Windsor from Friday lunchtime to Sunday too. Ummm. Relaxing weekend ahead.

Windsor’s a lovely venue for a conference. Close enough to Heathrow, steeped in history, but surrounded by countryside. The Thames was pretty full.

River Thames - high water - Windsor

The Audience Councils that represent licence fee payers in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England were getting together for their annual weekend conference to discuss the ongoing impartiality review of network (ie, national) news and factual output, the future of Public Service Broadcasting (plurality, changing audiences, and the impact of digital technology) as well as thinking about the BBC’s role in citizenship and the effectiveness of the Audience Councils within the BBC Trust’s framework.

The lighter moments included Andrew Marr calling in towards the end of dinner to share a little of his thinking about the current media climate. He contrasted his days of being a newspaper hack and editor (of The Independent which thankfully relaunched its website this week) with the rigour and impartiality tests applied to network news coverage. With good humour and a lot of honesty throughout, he also took our questions ... no matter how bizarre.

Interesting to hear his intentional approach to allowing politicians to talk a bit about their successes (and those of their government departments) before nailing them on specific issues. If democracy is to be valued and appreciated, then it can’t all be about negativity, knocking people down, and criticising failure. That and his candid assessment on how well party leaders interview!

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