Thursday 12 June 2008

Dismayed by the BBC

I spent all of yesterday afternoon and early evening in the House of Lords watching the debate on an amendment to the European Union (Amendment) Bill which would have required a referendum before the Treaty was ratified by the UK. It was the kind of debate the House of Lords does well - interesting, with contributions from real experts and witty. Well worth sitting through the 4 hours and 9 minutes of debate and the vote.

I woke early this morning and turned on to "The Record", first broadcast on BBC Parliament, then repeated on BBC 24. I was very surprised at the editorial decisions taken over which parts of the debate were shown. We heard from Lord Pearson of Rannoch and Lord Campbell of Alloway. We had a brief snatch of Lord Brittain - where he was interrupted by Lord Elton. Lord Owen's comments were made - and a little (the least effective part) of Lord Wallace's speech. Had I relied on the BBC for a fair representation of that debate - and I do so rely - I would have been badly misled.

First of all, there were more speeches made against the amendment than for. Yet the impression in the report was of overwhelming pro-amendment sentiment. The best speeches - and I would count among them the speeches of Baroness Williams; Baroness Symons; Lord Patten of Barnes and the Archbishop of York - were not shown at all. The point made by the pro-amendment speakers that a promise of a referendum had been broken was fully answered, particularly in Lady Symons speech. Yet this answer was not given any airtime.

I was very disappointed by the coverage. The BBC failed its viewers badly.

If you want to watch the debate it is available in full at http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/VideoPlayer.aspx?meetingId=1894

The highlights can be found at http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/VideoPlayer.aspx?meetingId=1894&st=17:16:13 (Archbishop of York - 02:15:08 if watching from the start - his ending is superb)
http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/VideoPlayer.aspx?meetingId=1894&st=17:37:21 (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean - on the fundamental difference between the Constitutional Treaty and the treaty of Lisbon)
http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/VideoPlayer.aspx?meetingId=1894&st=18:27:24 (Lord Patten of Barnes - particularly on the advice to Conservative candidates in the 1992 General Election)
http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/VideoPlayer.aspx?meetingId=1894&st=18:09:14 (Lord Kerr - on what the Treaty does)