On TV & Radio.

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Rory Stewart’s middling account of the Middleland

Rory Stewart, Tory MP for Penrith and the Border and previously a diplomat in some chronic "borderlands" (ex-Yugoslavia and Afghanistan) has given us a TV (and, I gather, a book) account of his love of what he calls the Middleland, between England and Scotland, which he now represents. It's exhilarating stuff, but is it tosh.....? Read more...


16 April 2014

Brutalism: Big it up for Meades

Jonathan Meades is a vital figure, a sort of a Christopher Hitchens for architecture, with a dash of Ian Nairn, but considerable wallops of Suggsy, and a undertone of some late 18th Century person (wonderful to think it might be JM's admired Burke himself). I very much approve his appreciation of Brutalism, though I would go further and wider.... Read more...


26 February 2014

“Top Gear” and Chernobyl

I have a soft spot for the absurd Top Gear and its "star in a cheap car" and its supercar features. But above all I like the Flashmanism of some of the team's heroics. Very galling, then, to watch their absurd treatment of  a visit to Chernobyl. Read more...


17 February 2014

BBC Radio 2 and being human

I have been wondering what I would say if asked to contribute to the Radio 2 Jeremy Vine Show mini-series on what it is to be human. I suppose I would begin by assuming that one is trying to see the difference between humans and animals. One angle, then, would be to say that we are moral: a large can of worms, that. But what else? Read more...


16 October 2013

BBC vs LSE, and the point of journalism

A curiosity of the BBC's undercover trip to North Korea is that hardly anyone has framed the argument in the terms which matter and would once have seemed obvious. Namely: as the debate about the trip went up the chain at the BBC, no-one seems to have considered it important to ask the governing body of the LSE whether it minded having its institutional brand, imprimatur and name hijacked. When asked, the LSE said it wasn't happy. But the BBC and its fans (let's especially include the articulate and usefully clear piece by Robin Lustig in the Guardian) merely repeat the mantra that the BBC was responsibly considerate as to the risk its trip posed to the club-members who accompanied it.... Read more...


17 April 2013

Monty Don, in peasant blue, on grand French gardens

Monty Don is an extraordinary figure, and never more so than in his new series on French gardens. At home, and normally, his approach on Gardeners' World is a work of art. It draws one in. His persona is the antithesis of the TV celebrity. There is no concession to the plebian or the demotic. He is quite Bloomsbury, or Sitwell. He is of the 1950s - somehow, in his world, we are only just out of rationing. Electricity has been invented, but is kept indoors - it has not reached the garden, quite.  His is the manner of an eccentric aristocrat, or gnarled bohemian. But there is the affectation of peasant authenticity, and quite possibly a dread of the common, the flashy, the arriviste and the nouveau. That produced a fine muddle in France. Read more...


06 February 2013

How I saved the BBC from the right-wing

All right. My headline may be over-egging things a little. Still, I am pretty sure I helped save the BBC from making a fool of itself over climate change politics. (If I'm wrong, and someone in a position to know lets me know in confidence, I'll cheerfully take this blog down.) The issue is especially interesting to me since I want the BBC to be scrapped but I don't really share the right's horror of its supposed left-wing bias or even the current blogosphere outrage at the BBC's climate coverage. Read more...


15 November 2012

Paedophile inquiries: Waterhouse vs Webster?

It's early days in the re-investigation of claims of paedophilia in Wales, but it is perhaps a good moment to hope that the work of Richard Webster gets re-visited. In his The Secret of Bryn Estyn (2005 and 2009), Webster (who died in 2011) made a detailed case that many of the allegations of abuse were false, and had indeed been induced by police, judicial and journalistic practices.  He claimed these failings had led to several false imprisonments. Webster criticised the Waterhouse Inquiry for misunderstanding the nature of false allegations, and for allowing them to go unchallenged. In short, Ronald Waterhouse (who also died in 2011) may have failed to uncover some cases of abuse, but it may well be that his inquiry also failed to uncover some gross miscarriages of justice. Read more...


13 November 2012

Tessa Jowell’s mutual BBC

Tessa Jowell has proposed that the BBC must be preserved and that it should be a mutual owned and controlled by the licence-fee holders. This is a socialist romantic's vision and it mirrors rather well my "right-wing" proposal for a National Media Trust. Read more...


13 November 2012

Dimbleby half right on BBC management

There was something quite blissful about David Dimbleby's contribution to today's BBC Today programme (12 November 2012). He said the BBC was over-managed, and that such organisations as the BBC and NHS spawned bureaucracies. The paradox here is that he doesn't grasp that one reason that the NHS and the BBC are alike is that they are both state-sponsored behemoths with monolithic tendencies. Read more...


12 November 2012
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