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Adam Boulton of Sky described Dimbleby’s complicity in Question Time’s drift towards “the ritual confrontation and humiliation of its guests”. His and the BBC’s laziness and ugliness had led to a “coarsening of public discourse”. Among my political allies Dimbleby and his producers are the first item of evidence used to prosecute the claim that the BBC has not merely covered populism but promoted it by putting Nigel Farage on Question Time more than any other guest this century.

Although I find it repugnant to see men and women who have had nothing but privilege in their lives make money by  building up demagogues, the bias accusation misses the point. Or rather the bias is not political but “the bias against understanding” that long-forgotten BBC executives complained about. The worst broadcasters aren’t remotely partisan. Having settled political convictions would harm rather than hurt their careers. Rather, they exploit the dogmatism of others and transform it into ratings and pay rises. They know that outrage keeps the audience tuned in; it stimulates and infuriates the viewers. Better that than a difficult argument that would only drive them away.

To think we need only worry about one nasty BBC programme is to miss the wider cultural problem.

In a clear-eyed essay on the Arc website, which is well worth reading if you can search it out, Bonny Brooks dissected the economics of extremism. Corporations want to appear politically engaged, not because they are planning to turn themselves into workers’ cooperatives or even put worker representatives on their boards, but because “woke” credentials  drove their social media profile. Booksellers, she wrote, increasingly believe that to market their products they must find authors who “are willing to talk about themselves and their issues — a lot. They must find people who are willing to hashtag threads pertaining to hot takes du jour while testifying to their own experience. They must be seen to be woke.”

Publishers may be wrong. People who denounce or praise  an author on Twitter may never buy a book from one year to the next. But they are not being stupid. An author’s follower count, the number of retweets and Facebook page likes, provides a commercial measure of sorts.

For broadcasters it may soon be the best measure they have. I looked at the summer television ratings recently, and was struck by how old the audience was becoming. Once the World Cup was over, the most popular programmes were traditional soap operas on ITV — Emmerdale and Coronation Street — and nostalgia on BBC1 — PoldarkAntiques Roadshow and Countryfile. The young are as likely to see a broadcaster’s work on a social media clip as a television set. And the clips that go viral are the clips that provoke righteous outrage or gormless applause.

At least one BBC executive has talked about raising standards now that Dimbleby has gone. I am not sure it can be done. As so many Americans have said, the possibility of creating a common space where, whatever disagreement’s of opinion citizens have, they agree on commonly accepted facts, is vanishing. It won’t disappear entirely. But, inevitably, only a minority will want fact- checked information or opinions that do not merely confirm their prejudices. Mass democracy in the West was built on imperfect but generally honest mass media — the broadcasters in particular. They are shrinking now, and their remnants face enormous pressures to abandon basic standards. It will be interesting, to put it mildly, to see how democracy can cope with their loss.
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Shin Akuma
September 27th, 2018
10:09 AM
epic gamer style

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