Sunday 17 November 2013

Reading the papers at 'Breakfast'

Here's an update to an earlier pair of much-loved posts about the people invited to review the weekend papers on BBC Breakfast

As they used to say in exam papers, compare and contrast the following two lists - one from this year, one from two years ago. [As this blog isn't an exam board, I'll add a 'please' to that request.]

7/9 Simon Fanshawe, writer
8/9 Ian MacMillan, poet
14/9 David Davies, former FA boss
15/9 Paul Horrocks. former president of the UK Society of Editors
21/9 Cary Cooper, academic
22/9 Kate Williams, historian
28/9 Olly Mann, writer and broadcaster
29/9 Emma B, radio presenter
5/10 Simon Fanshawe, writer
6/10 Ian MacMillan, poet
12/10 Margaret Doyle, Deloitte
13/10 Vicky Beeching, feminist blogger
19/10 Bishop Stephen Lowe, former Bishop of Hulme
20/10 Reverend Richenda Leigh, chaplain, University of Derby
26/10 David Davies, former FA boss
27/10 Juliet Dunlop, journalist and broadcaster
2/11 Simon Fanshawe, writer
3/11 Pete Waterman, music producer
9/11 John Amaechi, psychologist and former basketball player
10/11 Kate Williams, historian
16/11 Paul Horrocks. former president of the UK Society of Editors
17/11 Helen Pidd, Guardian

11 June - David Davies, former FA boss
12 June - Jonathan Oliver, Sunday Times
18 June - Mehdi Hasan, New Statesman
19 June - Chris Adams, FT
25 June - Simon Fanshawe, writer
26 June - Camila Batmanghelidjh, charity leader
2 July - Margaret Doyle, Reuters
3 July - Kevin Maguire, Daily Mirror
9 July - Phil Hall, PR consultant
10 July - Kevin Maguire, Daily Mirror & Vincent Graff, freelance journalist
16 July - Tim Walker, Daily Telegraph 
17 July - Andew Pierce, Daily Mail
23 July - no paper review (because of coverage of the Breivik massacre in Norway)
24 July - Olly Mann, writer
30 July - Simon Fanshawe, writer
31 July - Camila Batmanghelidjh, charity leader
6 August - Margaret Doyle, Reuters
7 August - Kevin Maguire, Daily Mirror 
13 August - Olly Mann, writer
14 August - Vincent Graff, freelance journalist
20 August - Tim Walker, Daily Telegraph 
21 August - Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail
27 August - Peter Bradshaw, Guardian 
28 August - David Davies, former FA boss
3 September - Margaret Doyle, Reuters
4 September - Kevin Maguire, Daily Mirror 
10 September - Simon Fanshawe, writer
11 September - Stryker Mcguire, US journalist
17 September - Olly Mann, writer
18 September - Jonathan Oliver, Sunday Times 
25 September - David Davies, former FA boss
1 October - Vincent Graff, freelance journalist
2 October - Mehdi Hasan, New Statesman
8 October - Simon Fanshawe, writer
9 October - Olly Mann, writer
15 October - Tim Walker, Daily Telegraph
16 October - Michael White, Guardian

There are several observations I'd make about these lists, were I answering an exam question (and ignoring the different ways the dates are written in the two lists):

(1) That the proportion of female guests has risen sharply.
(2) That certain guests - Simon Fanshawe, David Davies, Margaret Doyle, Olly Mann - remain regulars.
(3) That most of the guests in both 2011 and 2013 are politically 'safe' (i.e. not too far to either the Right or the Left).
(4) That the most partisan left-wingers - Mehdi Hasan and Kevin Maguire - who featured in 2011 seem to have disappeared.
(5) That all the right-wingers featured in 2011 - Tim Walker and Andrew Pierce - seem  to have disappeared.
(6) That there remain quite a few Labour-supporting or openly left-wing guests (Simon Fanshawe, Pete Waterman, Bishop Stephen Lowe, Helen Pidd)
(7) That there don't seem to any pro-Conservative/UKIP or openly right-wing guests at all these days.
(8) That most of the guests, having heard their contributions, seem mildly left-of-centre politically.

So, if I were being tough, I'd say that the last two years have seen a smoothing away of controversial political opinions, and an increase of quota-based guest selection. 

Plus, I'd say that the tendency towards a soft-focused, vaguely left-of-centre guest list has become even more pronounced, especially given the complete exclusion of any obvious right-wingers.

However, and to be fair, many of these guests have been interesting and enjoyable to watch. Many are seasoned paper reviewers, also appearing on Sky News, and know how to talk about news stories in an interesting way.

Yes, you can usually tell where they're coming from - and it's a nice, BBC-friendly, ambient, warm bath, liberal kind of place (aaaahh!) - but it could be much worse. It could merely be a merry-go-round consisting of the likes of Simon Fanshawe, Mehdi Hasan and Kevin Maguire (i.e. left-wing partisans). At least BBC Breakfast hasn't inflicted that on us yet.

Aren't I easily pleased?

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