I gave up on the Today programme last week with its Guest editors. The Guest editor for business made his main item the first day an interview with a woman running a knitting circle for the digital generation who were fed up with being on line and wanted to make something. I wanted a briefing on the state of the world’s economies and markets, as other major countries did not have a bank holiday on Monday so there was real business and market news to catch up with. Usually of course Today’s regular editors wish to turn most major business interviews into some special commentary on the EU referendum, wrongly assuming all company heads will favour staying in. The editors seem quite unaware of the many attractions to business of being out.
The media say they are now doing a great job on presenting business to the public, thanks to their Dragon’s Den, Apprentice and similar competitive frameworks. Far from following business, these are reality shows about possible future small businesses and new ventures that have been artificially stimulated by the powers of early tv exposure. There is little proper business news coverage. The BBC does not usually want to present the profits, investment programmes and product launches of most companies. Most interviews are confined to a few heads of well known large businesses in the public eye with many direct customers. They are rarely required to defend their results, or to explain shareholder disappointments. The most aggressive interviews are when their company or industry is said to have caused a national problem – food companies are attacked for people being fat, energy companies are criticised for low income customers not having enough money for all the energy they want. Sometimes the business leader is invited to attack or support the government of the day, however sensibly reluctant they may be to be dragged into UK politics.
As a result of the lack of BBC coverage of the importance of business and what it does, we have low standards of public information on the scale, contribution and decisions of business. A piece on knitting circles won’t hack it. That just leaves the BBC at the foot of the business guillotine waiting for the next excuse to monster a company.