This morning brought a classic case of BBC failure to interview well, thanks to the absence of a BBC England. The Today programme had as its main political guest Liz Truss, acting in her capacity as England’s rural affairs and rural economy Minister. After wasting the first couple of questions on a definition of productivity as the interviewer clearly thought his audience not up to that (why not just briefly describe it if worried), he asked her a couple of questions on broadband in Aberdeen. I guess he thought that would provide “regional” balance. The trouble is Aberdeen is neither rural nor English so it was nothing to do with Liz Truss who understandably seemed at a bit of a loss to know where to begin to explain the constitution to the Today programme.
If the Today programme wishes to explore their allegation of poor broadband installation in Aberdeen then they could invite on a Scottish Minister responsible for Scottish development and the urban economy, or could explore with the Culture and media Secretary whether devolution is getting in the way of spreading broadband in parts of Scotland, where responsibilities are different. Instead, once again England was short changed by not getting a proper interview of the English Minister on England’s rural economy.
Once even more powers are devolved to Scotland the Today programme and other BBC UK programmes need to make a decision. Either they have to set up an English programme where all matters can be discussed that relate to England as they have for Scotland with BBC Scotland, or they have to allocate slots in UK programmes to English only issues and be prepared to explore properly as if there were a BBC England. Today’s interview was just one of many which fails to give England the scrutiny and treatment it deserves, and misunderstands how we are governed in a devolved country.
Perhaps the Today programme should begin with an item exploring Englishness and England’s issues, to explain to its producers how devolution works.