Politicians avoiding ‘proper scrutiny', BBC boss says
Lord Tony Hall has said that politicians should submit to long-form interviews so they can be “quizzed at length” about their policies.
The BBC director-general is the latest media figure to take a swipe at politicians who snub political interviews in favour of social media.
Earlier in the day, outgoing BBC presenter John Humphrys claimed that politicians avoid interviews so “they can choose the questions they answer without being challenged”.
And last month, Channel 4’s news chief Dorothy Byrne called Boris Johnson a “coward” and compared him with Vladimir Putin for his preference for a “jolly statement” over a TV grilling.
Speaking at the Royal Television Conference in Cambridge, Lord Hall said politicians, for example US President Donald Trump, who bypassed the press using social media were avoiding “proper scrutiny”.
He said: “I think it is really important that people put themselves up on Sky as well as on the BBC, as well as on Channel 4, as well as on ITV, for long-form interview.
“Proper scrutiny – it’s all well and good saying you can rely, as Trump does for example, on Twitter or whatever else it may be.
“Putting people up for proper examination in a long-form interview is really important.
“It was very good to see David Cameron making exactly that point this morning, as Blair did.
“These places where those in power can be quizzed at length, not just on the hop somewhere are absolutely key.
“We should do everything we can to encourage politics to come along for them.”
In Ms Byrne’s MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival last month, she called Mr Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn “cowards” who refuse to hold themselves up to proper scrutiny on television.
Lord Hall added: “Dorothy was very articulate and I agree with her on the problem.”
However, when questioned over what broadcasters could do when politicians refused outright, Lord Hall said only that that was a “problem”.
He said: “We have to make a song and dance that they should come on these programmes.
“In the end if they don’t want to, well, of course we have got a problem.
“I believe you can get others to come on.
“In the end you have got to be part of the competition for getting your views across.
“For an election, the long-form interview is really importance.
“I also think the Question Time format is really important too. These are important parts of our democracy.
“What do you do? You keep arguing for them and keep arguing for the importance of them.”