Mary Beard and Question Time – Clash, Discussion or Dialogue?

 

Lincoln Green   

Professor Mary Beard

Copyright Rose of Academe

Following the appearance of Mary Beard on the BBC’s Question Time broadcast from Lincoln on 17 January 2013 there has been an outbreak of largely anonymous abuse, directed at the Cambridge University Professor of Classics, originating from discussions which took place on the programme.

The website ‘Don’t Set Me Off’ which included some particularly offensive comments has subsequently been closed down by the website moderator who commented that friends and colleagues of the academic had been “trolling” his site and bombarding it with Latin poetry.  He also commented that Beard ought not to seek to curb freedom of speech.  Beard suggested that it was desirable to have a consensus on appropriate behaviour for on-line postings and that the nature of boundaries regarding what is acceptable should be considered.

As well as reflecting on the personal impact of the abuse on Mary Beard, a number of more general issues arise from these incidents and are perhaps worth considering: the relationship between the comments and the debate which actually took place; the quality and accuracy of reports on the debate made by sections of the press; the reasons which underscore the various controversies created by the programme; the potential inhibition of democratic debate and the willingness of individuals to place their heads above the parapet in a public forum of this type.  Read more of this post

Question Time – Democracy Lite?

Lincoln Green 

BBC Question Time

Copyright UK Parliaments photostream

I was an audience member in the BBC Question Time broadcast from Lincoln on 17 January 2013, when David Dimbleby chaired a panel which included Mary Beard (Professor of Classics, Cambridge University), Nigel Farage MEP (Leader of UKIP), Caroline Flint MP (Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change), Roland Rudd (Chairman, Business for New Europe) and Grant Shapps MP (Conservative Party Chairman).

Whilst the aim of the programme is to entertain and to provoke, attendance prompted thoughts about broader issues and about the underscoring attitudes which inform opinion and which programmes such as Question Time by their very nature fail to address.

Perhaps the most well debated issue was not actually broadcast but took place earlier, chaired by the floor manager to warm up the audience and to check the broadcasting systems.  The theme of responsibility for diet was discussed for almost an hour, raising issues such as personal responsibility, education for change, busy working parents and child care, and most pertinently the nature of the food industry.  Even with the luxury of extra time allotted only hints of the real issue were addressed – that the function of the food industry is to make a profit, and the easiest way to do this is to create something on which people will spend plenty of money (junk food) which is very cheap to produce and highly addictive (fat, sugar and salt).  Read more of this post

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