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I made the mistake of tuning in to the Daily Politics Yorkshire and Lincolnshire today. Ranting presenter Tim Ireland was ‘interviewing’ Rachel Reeves MP and Andrea Jenkyns MP. And as always, the BBC can’t cover Brexit without going to a Leave-voting area, where it indulges in a series of vox pops with middle-aged and elderly white voters ranting about how Brexit should have been sorted ages ago.

In the following ‘debate’, Ireland made that most crass and lazy of statements, which has come to characterise the faux-exasperated style of the patronising pundit: ‘Are you two not hearing what we are hearing on the streets all the time, people are saying “Why don’t they just get on with it?”?’ Of course this is delivered in a manner intended to convey to the viewer that Ireland is of course a presenter of tremendous insight, in tune with the great British public.

Funny how the BBC never seems as concerned with those who voted Remain, or those who weren’t allowed to vote because they were too young and who will be affected longest. Sure, they will get coverage in occasional dedicated features, but the vox pops that litter our screens daily are inarguably heavily Leave-biased.

Both the vox pops and this style of presenting has become a lazy formula for the BBC’s political commentary on Brexit. The only voters that matter for vox pops are outraged Leave voters, whose views are heard sympathetically and then simply echoed subsequently in the studio as if they contain some unchallengeable truth that politicians should address.

Worse, in the subsequent discussion, Jenkyns was allowed to simply make ridiculous arguments by assertion that went unchallenged around polling, about being a ‘democrat’ (implying anyone who disagreed with her wasn’t) etc.

This is what the BBC passes off as political coverage. No debate. No scrutiny of those views. and it treats the public as idiots just as much as any politician from Leave or Remain with hectoring views.

So here are some ideas.

  1. Abandon the vox pops. They teach us nothing, just provide fodder for a lazy caricature of our politics that doesn’t show us anything about what the country is thinking.
  2. Instead, treat the public like grown ups who can make a substantiated argument. When they talk about how things should have been done years ago, challenge them on what they say, ask how it should have been done, take them to task on what they think the answer is. Don’t simply provide a platform for unsubstantiated bollocks. We have Twitter for that.
  3. Subject both sides of the argument to the same level of scrutiny and double-down on any one drawing false equivalences in their arguments, whichever side they are on.
  4. Challenge politicians to produce the evidence for their arguments. If they cite polling, ask them to state what polling that is. If they make crass statements on democracy, call them out.

If the BBC did this, it might begin to have a hope of fulfilling its remit as a public service broadcaster when it comes to the Brexit debate.

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Noise.

It fills our lives. It is something that is so constant that I doubt any of us really experience true silence except perhaps on a few occasions in our lives. There is the daily burr that forms a soundtrack to our lives that we barely pay attention to any more. There are the phones chirruping away, cars passing, doors closing, papers shuffling, colleagues talking at the water cooler, footsteps in the corridor. The list is endless.

In more peaceful places there is still noise: the wind in the trees, birds singing, the sea on the shore, the rustle of grass as we walk. Even now, in this house, with no music playing, the windows double-glazed and with the heating currently off, I can hear the whirr of the computer’s fan and my fingers clicking on the keyboard (and what a joy it is to be typing on a real keyboard, not a laptop or a Blackberry). At other times there might be the creak of pipes or the sound of the house settling after the day or a distant siren howling through the town.

Interestingly, pretty much the world’s quietest place isn’t in the middle of nowhere at all. It is at Orfield Laboratories, in their anechoic chamber:

anechoic chamberAnechoic means echo free and this chamber is designed to completely absorb sound waves and create an experimental space in which there can be absolute silence. Somehow or other I suspect that I would end up being driven mad by the sound of the blood rushing in my ears!

Anyway, browsing Facebook, the feed of an old friend with whom I wish I kept in better touch flashed up a link to a blog: Noise – A human history. Starting Monday 18 March, this 30-part series will explore the role of sound in the past 100,000 years of human history As it says on the blog:

“Recorded on location around the world, it will take us from the shamanistic trance-music of our cave-dwelling ancestors, the babel of ancient Rome, the massacre of noisy cats in pre-revolutionary Paris, and the sonic assaults of trench warfare, right through to our struggle to find calm in the cacophony of a modern metropolis. This is not about sound in the abstract: it is about sound as a matter of life and death, pain and pleasure, feeling and intellect. People, and their past behaviours, are at the heart of it.”

Sound has always fascinated me – how we become attuned to some sounds and not to others, how music can bend our emotions, how people communicate, how we hear the world when we actually stop to listen. Something tells me that this series will be quite special.

Check it out – and those of you who enjoy quality radio, listen out for it.

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As part of my recuperation I spent a morning out walking in the hills, enjoying the bleak beauty of the Langdon ridge in winter. As I tramped I listened to Radio 4 – a regular vice.

One of the programmes advertised was A History of the World in 100 Objects. Narrated by Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, it does as it says on the tin – tell our human history through the objects we have made. The reason it caught my ear was that the item being discussed was a Braille-related device, the operator explaining that it was virtually unchanged since the 1920s and offering the sentiment that it was unlikely that many people were using objects of such an age today.

An hour and a half earlier I had been speaking to a relative who had been working with machinery from the 19th Century – in an industry unchanged for hundreds of years (he produces the shallots for pipe organs – if you are lost as to what a shallot is, this page in Understanding the Pipe Organ might help!).

Both experiences prompted the (unoriginal!) thought that so much of our history is told in small, everyday ways. We’ve all got defining memories of ordinary objects, large and small, that have been part of our life story. The BBC’s programme, recounting our global history in such objects, is genius. Each programme is just fourteen minutes long. If you’ve missed them so far, you can catch up by listening to the podcasts on the BBC.

If you go to the page A History of the World, you can join in their project to tell a history of our world in objects, submitting your own entries.

The Sinclair ZX81 and Sinclair Spectrum for me I think!

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