Sunday 23 September 2018

"Frankly, it's an absurd criticism"

Samira Ahmed: I'm joined now by Nick Robinson, who's in our Westminster studio. Thank you for coming on Newswatch. You spent quite a bit of time with the Prime Minister last week. We saw you travelling in her car. You eavesdropped on meetings. You even sat with her and her husband watching a quiz show. What sort of deal did you do to get that access?
Nick Robinson: Well, when you say a deal it's no different from any other interview that you do with any other senior politician. We say, "We want an interview." They say, "We are prepared to be in an interview on this date, in these sorts of circumstances". But, obviously in this case we said, "Could we have some access as well, some behind-the-scenes access?" And we got more access than you would normally get. But we were explicit in the script. I was explicit in writing when I wrote about this and have talked about it, that obviously access is really what they want to give you. And indeed we showed in the Panorama at one stage how we were filming the beginning of a Cabinet meeting on no-deal preparation and then we were thrown out and the door was closed. So my feeling always is that access is fine to do on television provided you are explicit with the audience about what you are seeing and what you are not.
Samira Ahmed: Presumably, though, the Prime Minister's director of communications Robbie Gibb would have played a part in arranging this. He used to run BBC Westminster. Some viewers are really uncomfortable about this. They feel that you are effectively doing the Prime Minister's PR for her. 
Nick Robinson: Well, I think, frankly, it's an absurd criticism. Any politician who comes to give an interview is doing it because they have a purpose. They want to communicate a message. They are doing it at a time of their choosing because, of course, if they didn't want to do it, they wouldn't agree to do it in the first place. They are doing it because they want to get a message across that they want to get across, because they choose what they say when their mouth opens. So any arrangement to do any programme is of course partly - partly - on the terms of the politician and their spin doctors, press officers, director of communications, call them what you will. What we as journalists have to decide is, is there an interest for our viewers, our listeners, is there an interest for people who want to see the Prime Minister questioned in doing that particular interview. And I think to see the Prime Minister questioned on the criticisms of the Chequers deal that she had - criticisms coming from Remainers as well as coming from Leavers, criticisms coming from within her own party that might deny her the majority - those are questions worth putting, and I did put them and, therefore, I felt it was a programme worth doing. 

1 comment:

  1. "Any politician who comes to give an interview is doing it because they have a purpose." Well you're halfway their Nick! What about the interviewer. Do they not have a purpose?

    It seems Nick Robinson (left wing Conservative in the Clarke in mould and ex chair of half a dozen Conservative groupings) wants us to believe that the 99% Guardian supporting or Labour/Lib Dem/SNP/PC/Green voting or PC-loving BBC journalists go into such interviews without a "purpose" in a state of journalistic grace, immune to all bias, distinterested in policy and careless of their country's future.

    The truth is many BBC journos have always mixed politics and journalism (you Nick, you Paul Mason, you Orla Guerin and countless other BBC journos who have ended up Labour or SNP MPs). The truth is most interviewers from the BBC have a strong political purpose themselves when they interview someone: they very often want to remove particular ministers from government, promote others, advance PC values, belittle and dismiss populists and so on. Does anyone seriously maintain that Evan Davis would have asked a Labour Party Leader or a Green Party Leader about a Paddington Bear movie as he did when he interviewed UKIP's leader, Nigel Farage?


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