Saturday 24 March 2018

Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings


There was a spot of controversy this week over a feature on Monday's The World at One where a BBC reporter went to a Welsh primary school and invited the children there to give their views on Brexit. All of them were very negative about Brexit. 

Here's a flavour of some of the criticism:
A news item including children in Wales being questioned about their views on Brexit. Three were interviewed. After two offered their reasons for being against ‘leaving Brexit’, I awaited at least a third one to balance the item with a view reflecting the Welsh vote , if not the entire nation’s. But this is radio 4 . All three , aged 7-11, were against Brexit. As a remain voter, I see every attempt by BBC radio 4 to re-present the vote as an insult to democracy and, in this instance, an embarrassment. I don’t need to resort to presenting the uninformed views of children to reinforce an argument. I would add that I support Wales asking children and young people their opinions.
The World At One broadcast today a specific item introduced by statement along the lines of “The majority of over 18 year olds in Wales voted to leave the EU, but what do the children think?”. The article then broadcast the opinions of four 11-year olds, in succession, from a school in Wales. All 4 opinions were anti-Brexit. No pro-Brexit opinion was mentioned. Indeed, the interviewer asked if any other child wanted to say something, but there was no response. I have to ask, what on Earth do the BBC think they are doing interviewing 11-year old children, in a school group environment, as part of a serious news programme?! Does the BBC not understand child psychology, or child peer pressure in a group environment? Does the BBC really think that 11-year olds are capable of expressing independent thought or opinions with no influence from parents or teachers? Did their parents approve of their children being broadcast? Were their parents and teachers pro- or ante-Brexit? – that would have been relevant. Such exploitation of children in furtherance of an anti-Brexit agenda is intolerable.
Well, I must admit I'm not sure about this. I feel uneasy about the feature too, but: If the Welsh government is proposing asking children as young as seven for their views on Brexit then I don't blame the BBC for staging such a stunt, just to try it out and see what could happen. And if all of the children expressed a single (anti-Brexit) point of view - doubtless filtered through their parents and, possibly, their teachers too  - then there's really nothing much the BBC reporter could do about that here. And I don't think it's for a BBC reporter to challenge and correct children and, thus, make them look silly on national radio. 

However, I would point out that Tomos Morgan revealed his own bias by wrongly saying "Europe":
SOPHIE:....we’ve left breakfast . . . breakfa— sorry . . .
TOMOS MORGAN: Europe. (laughter from adults)
No, Sophie, please be reassured: We are not 'leaving Europe'.

And Tomos's Twitter feed is 'very BBC'. Read his tweets about Brexit, for example, and you'll see that they are wholly one-sided. He doesn't appear to be a fan of Brexit at all - to put it mildly - and I suspect the unanimity of anti-Brexit sentiment he heard from those four young children will have been music to his ears. 

Anyhow, are you more worried than I am about this The World at One feature? 

Here's a transcript of the whole thing, so please make up your own minds about it:

Transcript of BBC Radio 4, ‘The World at One Weekend’, 19 March 2018, Welsh Children and Brexit, 1.26pm (courtesy of Andrew)

MARTHA KEARNEY: Despite Adam Fleming’s concise explanation earlier on in the programme, you may feel still somewhat a bit confused about the Brexit process. But what about children? Kids in Wales, aged as young as seven, will get the chance to have their say on the UK leaving the EU, because the Welsh government is launching a consultation to help ministers understand the views of the younger generation. People aged over 18 in Wales voted in favour of leaving the EU, so what do children think about Brexit? Our Wales correspondent, Tomas Morgan, has been to Pontybrenin School in Gorseinon near Swansea.

MAISY: I’m Maisy Thornhill and I am eleven years old.

TOMOS MORGAN: Maisy, just tell me what you think about Brexit.

MAISY: I know that there’s a lot of people who have friends who are in Europe, and if we were to leave, they might not have been able to get in. I am aware that the people that can come into the country who may, who may not always do good things, and they can do bad things, but on the other hand you do have relatives and friends, it’s better to see them in real life than just, like, Skype-ing all the time and stuff.

TOMOS MORGAN: Brilliant, that’s brilliant Maisy, and just yes or no, do you think it’s the right thing to do?

MAISY THORNHILL: Erm . . . no.

REESE: My name’s Reese (?) Smith and I’m ten years old. I don’t want to leave Brexit, because even though we have to give money they give us money to improve our schools and our community.

TOMOS MORGAN: Brilliant. Who’s next?

SOPHIE: My name’s Sophie Brewer and I’m nine years old.

TOMOS MORGAN: And what are your views on Brexit, do you think it’s a good idea or not?

SOPHIE: I think it’s a bad idea because one of my friends in Year 3/4 she’s called Neve, and erm, she wants, she says she wanted to be a sing— well, a music teacher, and when erm . . . someone asks her, she says, ‘Well, if I want to go around the world to see different music, like, and see how it is’, she won’t be able to, because like, we’ve left breakfast . . . breakfa— sorry . . .

TOMOS MORGAN: Europe. (laughter from adults)

SOPHIE: And erm, well she, if she wants to go somewhere, well, she can’t now because of . . .

TOMOS MORGAN(speaking over) The travelling, worried about the travelling as well, yeah.

SOPHIE: So . . . it’s . . . and I think it’s a bad idea.

TOMOS MORGAN: Brilliant. Anything else from anyone?

FOURTH CHILD: There are better colleges in other countries than here, and if we can’t go there, then we won’t get (fragment of word, or word unclear due to speaking over)

TOMOS MORGAN: Be careful, the Welsh government are here, so if you say anything about education they’re going to get very angry (laughter from adults) 

FOURTH CHILD: We won’t get the level of education that we need.

MARTHA KEARNEY: Some pupils there from the Pontybrenin School in Gorseinon.


  1. I heard that and bridled at MK's intro: "you may feel still somewhat a bit confused about the Brexit process". No I don't - it's just you want me and all the other listeners to feel confused and that's why Chris Morris has the role of "the great confuser".

    How many times have we heard that line about confusion? It's so confusing, so difficult, so complex! No it ain't. We decided to leave the EU. The government and Parliament are implementing that decision. We are going to be offered by the EU a Canada-style free trade agreement - a CETA plus as I said over a year ago.

    Here's another prediction: the Irish border issue - the last hope of the BBC - will be resolved, along the lines proposed by the UK.

  2. Might be worth pointing out this is a welsh medium school, as such the children are not normally allowed to speak in english and they are not even allowed to hear english spoken before the age of seven. So I suspect their views are easily manipulated, welsh medium schools are expected to provide the civil service, teachers, third sector and politicians for the next generation in Wales.


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