The BBC has vanquished all comers when it comes to Sunday politics shows: Sky News’ offering, whoever is hosting, attracts fewer than 100,000 viewers, Robert Peston’s ITV show is ending - or, at least, ending on Sunday morning - thus leaving the field mainly to The Andy Marr Show™ with Sunday Politics to come.
Jo Coburn - will still be there at lunchtimes
But economies have to be made, and so Sunday Politics ends this weekend - for good. Regional politics programmes will follow Marr, but not to rub salt in the Sky News wound, oh no. And Daily Politics will be replaced by a new and different, honestly, offering. And it is there where we need to consider the devil in the detail.
Still caning the competition
BBC editor of live political programmes Rob Burley has not only sent an email informing colleagues of the changes, he has been brave enough to make it more generally available. Politics Live, the new weekday offering, “will be a modern, conversationial and accessible new political programme broadcast every weekday lunchtime from our Westminster studio at Millbank”. So what is going to be different, then?
“Boasting a new set, the programme will draw its inspiration from programs like NBC’s [?] Morning Joe … It will feel informal and unstuffy, with a panel of politicians, journalists and other interesting people from national life”. Hold it right there.
Morning Joe, the breakfast offering from MSNBC [pedantry point], succeeds for a variety of reasons. One is the politics background and contacts book of hosts Joe Scarborough, a former Congressman, and Mika Brzezinski, whose father Zbigniew was national security advisor to the Carter administration in the late 1970s.
Morning Joe: Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski
Another plus point for Morning Joe is the roster of pundits and guests, from resident-pundit-cum-co-host Willie Geist to all the academics, press representatives, and “names” who appear on a more or less regular basis (wonder if Tina Brown was fashionably late when she last appeared? One for Rob Burley there).
And that is where the BBC will stand or fall in mimicking this concept. Morning Joe effectively has three co-hosts, along with a number of guests in the studio - guests who are seriously knowledgeable (think New York Times, not New York Post).
Morning Joe: Willy Geist (2nd left) with guests - will the BBC try this format? Could be a difficult one to pull off
If the Beeb follows the spirit of Morning Joe, it will clear out the tired and indeed tedious succession of Westminster bubble bores, lobby group representatives and tabloid press makeweights - replacing them by guests from the real world, including getting people who know their subject on areas like the environment, transport and economics.
That would mean throwing out the IEA, CPS, ASI, TPA and the rest of the Astroturfers. It would mean climate change being discussed seriously, rather than making it a denialist shouting match. It would mean talking HS2 and Crossrail 2 with knowledgeable people, not a careerist from Conservative Home. It would mean no access merely on the basis of appeasing the press barons or political parties.
Those of us who have worked in IT have a tired but true maxim which illustrates the Beeb’s problem, whatever the format: Garbage In, Garbage Out. You have been warned.