Broadcasters Need to Clearly Label Talking Heads

Day after day on our screens broadcasters have an insatiable appetite for “talking heads”, articulate people who can make interesting television by making a passionate case. Producers are on the look out for people with knowledge of the hot issue of the day who they can use to make interesting viewing. This is why old Owen Jones was never off our screens for years, why you see so much of our Tom Harwood and literal communists like Ash Sarkar on the news shows. They provide opinionated ping-pong television refereed by presenters, sometimes it is a freak show, sometimes we learn something. Harmless so long as the panels are balanced and the viewers told where the talking heads are coming from when they are introduced, viewers can make up their own minds.

During the pandemic, though the trend has been apparent for a long time, talking heads are introduced suggesting viewers should be more inclined to give their opinions weight by virtue of their professional standing. Yet time after time these experts turn out to be undisclosed partisan political campaigners on the issue they are talking about. If this was made transparent the viewers would be much better placed to judge and contextualise the sometimes outlandish claims made.

The BBC have guidelines on the issue:

We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities and think-tanks) are unbiased. Appropriate information about their affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints should be made available to the audience, when relevant to the context.

On financial news channels (like CNBC, Bloomberg and Reuters) when fund managers are interviewed about their views on the stock market the presenter will often ask them “do you own the stock?”. Sometimes there will be a disclaimer at the bottom of the screen saying the fund manager has a position in the company being discussed. This came about after a number of scandals where interviewees had talked up stocks they were long or disparaged stocks they short. There should be a similar protocol for talking heads who are political campaigners.

Either when they are introduced or on screen at the bottom, it would be helpful if “Tracey Teacher is a Tory activist” or “Professor Boffin is a Communist Party central committee member” was indicated. No one is saying they should not be allowed to give their views, we’re just asking that their affiliations should be clearly labelled. Otherwise we end up with “news investigations” which are little more than party political broadcasts

mdi-timer 18 May 2020 @ 12:00 18 May 2020 @ 12:00 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Corbyn Disproves Sarkar’s Social Modelling

Yesterday, internationally-renowned epidemiologist Ash Sarkar was on Sky News talking about the how the government shouldn’t worry confusing different sections of society with different advice on what they can and can’t do as the lockdown winds down:

I don’t necessarily think you’re going to have a load of over-70s who say ‘my right to go to the pub and down a pint of real ale trumps my responsibility to make sure the NHS doesn’t become overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients in the event of a second wave of infections. If you explain to people why there are certain restrictions and you also tailor those restrictions to be sensible.”

You’d have thought Ash would know just how belligerent and ignorant some 70-year-olds can be…

mdi-timer 29 April 2020 @ 17:01 29 Apr 2020 @ 17:01 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Novara Attempts Stalin-Style Re-Writing of History

More Fake News from Norovirus Media this morning, as millennial Communist-in-Chief Ash Sarkar tried to erase Corbyn’s conspiracist record from history. Unfortunately for her, Guido kept the footage of Corbyn saying ”I suspect the hand of Israel in this” referring to a 2012 Jihadi terror attack on the Egyptian police. Norovirus is spreading (fake news)…

mdi-timer 14 November 2019 @ 11:29 14 Nov 2019 @ 11:29 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
McDonnell Pledges to Nationalise Corbyn’s Cat

Appearing at Novara Media’sRadical Variety Show‘ yesterday, John McDonnell came up with a raft of new left-wing policies to win over the electorate, including nationalising Greggs and Jeremy Corbyn’s Cat, El Gato. McDonnell also joked a number of times about how his comments were going to be written up by the right-wing press, Guido is happy to oblige…

The night of entertainment, which also included mojito making with Diane Abbott and a game of political charades, peaked with John McDonnell being asked to play ‘wheel of public ownership’. Watch the highlights below.

During the game the Shadow Chancellor shockingly went as far as to accuse Corbyn of mistreating his cat, El Gato, saying “the life that cat lives: forced to tour around that allotment, forced into a vegan lifestyle. And if there’s anything that needs to be brought into public ownership it’s that cat”. Guido’s sure the radical proposals will give the public paws for thought at the election…

mdi-timer 23 September 2019 @ 11:26 23 Sep 2019 @ 11:26 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Leftists Turn on Caroline Lucas

Caroline Lucas managed to achieve the remarkable feat of uniting right and left against her with the daftest proposal of silly season so far for an all-woman (and all-white) emergency ‘cabinet of national unity’ to take over and block no deal, “because women have shown they can bring a different perspective to crises, are able to reach out to those they disagree with and cooperate to find solutions”. Just women Caroline likes though, not women like Priti Patel, Liz Truss, Gisela Stuart, or apparently Diane Abbott.

Corbynistas who used to go dewy-eyed at the mere mention of Lucas have now been rapidly unpersoning her. Guido has rounded up some of the more enjoyable reactions…

Diane Abbott herself shut down the idea with an uncharacteristically sensible response. Thornberry, who was approached by Lucas to the fury of the Corbynistas, also poured cold water on it:

However it was Ellie Mae O’Hagan who saved the best till last, identifying the true enemy: centrism. Corbynistia has always been at war with Lucasia…

Lucas’s latest idea is never going to fly, as Guido has already noted, wild fantasising about ‘national unity’ PMs is this year’s silly season activity of choice. However there is a school of thought that by deliberately putting out an obviously daft idea and getting everyone talking about it, Lucas is helping to shift the Overton Window to make a ‘national unity’ Government under someone less bonkers seem more reasonable. Guido won’t be holding his breath…

mdi-timer 12 August 2019 @ 15:52 12 Aug 2019 @ 15:52 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Tory Minister’s Remain Love-In

Despite Boris’s insistence that all Ministers have to be on board with leaving the EU on the 31st October, deal or no deal, it seems not all of his new appointments are quite so enamoured with his policy. Transport Minister George Freeman this morning appeared on the Huffington Post podcast ‘Commons People’ and launched into an anti-no deal rant, claiming that “WTO long-term” would be an “absolute disaster that would leave my party out of office for decades”. Not exactly the Downing Street line to take…

Freeman freestyling on message doesn’t seem to just be confined to podcasts, his Big Tent Ideas Festival this year has a rather unexpected lineup for an event originally billed as coming from the “small c, pro-enterprise, innovation and reforming branch of Conservatism”. Guido is struggling to tell it apart from a Labour fringe event:

  • Seema Malhotra. Labour MP
  • Lisa Nandy. Labour MP
  • Darren Jones. Labour MP
  • Peter Kyle. One of the chief agitators for a second referendum
  • Ash Sarkar. Literally a communist
  • Damian Collins. Former Carole Cadwalla-borator-in-Chief
  • Nora Mulready. Former Change UK Candidate
  • Ayesha Hazarika. Former Brown, Harman and Miliband advisor
  • Isi Daley and Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson. Full-time Remain activists
  • Miatta Fahnbulleh. CEO of nutty hard-left think tank NEF
  • Jacqui Smith. Former Labour Home Secretary
  • Erica Ramos. NUS and second referendum supporter
  • Rory Stewart. One of the most right-wing people there…

In Freeman’s defence there are some Tory Brexiteers going including Bob Seely, Penny Mordaunt and Liam Halligan, although they’re firmly in the minority. He’s going to need a pretty big tent…

mdi-timer 9 August 2019 @ 17:14 9 Aug 2019 @ 17:14 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
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