An amazing thing happened at the dear old BBC lately. (You can tell you’re on to something good when the Daily Mail calls it ‘Drivel!’). They’ve been inviting guests editors onto its daily news magazine, ‘Today’ and the 2 January’s programme was edited by P.J. Harvey.
Listen to it here before it disappears into the BBC archives, never to return.
What an incredible lineup of guests she put together, inviting fantastically articulate journalists, experts and speakers on the usual range of subjects covered by the Today programme but from rarely-heard on Auntie perspectives.
I had that same experience again I once had after watching Chris Morris’s news spoofs and then watching the ‘real’ news – that strange dizzying feeling that everything is constructed, selected, propagandised but we normally don’t notice until someone points out how absurd it all is. But this time the commentary was embedded in the very flesh of the corporation’s body and I listened breathless, waiting for them to pull the plug at any minute. Dave Zirin debunked the Olympics, making a very convincing description of it as the epitome of an ‘athletic industrial complex’. We were told about the British Royal Families’ support of arms exports to oppressive regimes (I always wondered what their real jobs were), dining with the regime’s leaders while its citizens were being brutally suppressed with British-built equipment.
You can hear the nervousness of the Today presenters as they start to realise just how radical Polly Jane’s editorship is and as a listener, you start to glimpse just how massaged, neutered and safe what you unconsciously take to be a neutral news programme usually is.
One spectacular illustration for me of how arrogant the powerful are was the city pundit’s response to a fantastic piece about exposing London’s position as Europe’s central ‘open for all dodgy financial business, no questions asked, full bailout guaranteed’ capital in which she laughingly claims that what the UK public get back for their internationally unprecedented bailout of the banks to the tune of 90% of Britain’s GDP is the capital’s tax revenue. I don’t know if she seriously expects us to forget how much huge multinationals invest in dodging exactly this sort of contribution. I can only think that she can be this arrogant because there is nothing and no-one who will challenge her and the industry she represents.
When I first came to Germany in 2001 and we lived in Prenzlauer Berg, I remember very vividly letting an electrician or plumber in to do something in our kitchen where I had the BBC World Service on. He asked me what I was listening to and when I told him what it was in my basic German, he said “Ah, the BBC – propaganda.” I thought he was being funny at the time. Now I realise how right he was.
You can find a list of PJ Harvey’s contributions to the 2 January Today programme on her official site here.