Edinburgh TV Festival: McTaggart lecture
Jeremy Paxman got the tone exactly right in the earlier part of his speech yesterday at the Edinburgh Television Festival. Ripping off viewers is not on. Neither is leading them to believe that the Queen had a strop (when she didn't). But there is a limit. Television by definition is artificial. Senior executives telling broadcasters how evil they are does not help. The 'collective cringe' has gone too far. The current trust witch hunt is in danger of becoming ridiculous. Do we want journalists to feel that every edit will be criticised?
The problem is clear. I'm just not convinced Paxman's proposed solution. Apparently the industry, and specifically regulators, need to define precisely what television is for, and 'does not know which way is north' or 'even that there is a north'. That seems too harsh.
TV executives stand up every week to give long speeches about Public Service Broadcasting. They may not be concise and clear, but they are a well meaning and competent attempt. Documents such as Building Public Value [PDF, 1MB] are the product of a big effort involving some of the most talented people in the industry.
Most of the questions at the end of the lecture could be paraphrased as 'what would you do?'. Paxman had no clear answer. But he's a journalist. His job is the questions, rather than the answers.
In short: strong on the problem, weak on the solution.
Posted at 13:58 BST, 25th August 2007.