Sadly, nothing even “fairly magical” happened when BBC radio decided to “talk to the general public” about Boris Johnson becoming Tory party leader (‘Mind if we talk to you for a minute?’, Long read, 3 December).
When a woman with a microphone approached us, my wife immediately said that surely she wasn’t going to ask us about Johnson, and carried on saying how we should all leave the country immediately. Then, as the microphone moved towards me, panic set in. Had she given me five minutes I could have written two sides of A4 on the subject but with no time, I blurted out that the BBC certainly wouldn’t broadcast what I had to say, and called Johnson a “lying toe-rag” and a “disgrace”.
We didn’t think much more about it until a friend later told us she recognised our voices on the Radio 2 news. We listened to PM and they played it again, in its entirety, but with “toe-rag” sounding like “toad”. No problem with that, but to this day we cannot understand why the BBC would ask people in Liverpool, of all places, for their opinions on Johnson. What did they expect? They must know why Johnson dare not set foot in the city.
• John Harris in his piece on vox pops misses one dispiriting use of these on radio and TV news: in which the desire to find a pithy one-liner to fit a five-second attention span too often takes the form of endlessly recycling cliches that should be an invitation to a deeper questioning that never comes.
On the doorstep, I often find that people think more deeply and subtly about issues than their first response might indicate, but the broadcast media seem to be content with the notion that nation shall speak soundbite unto nation.
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