Democracy versus Debate.

Why do the Media & Politicians Keep Getting in the way of Democracy?

I have resisted writing about this subject for a while in the apparently vain hope that the TV broadcasters and our national politicians would come to their senses and produce a constructive series of televised debates.

It seems this is a forlorn hope. Who are the losers in this sad spectacle of ‘to debate or not debate, that is the question’? We, the people, the electorate, are.

While the media strut their ‘independence and freedom of the press’ (which is a good thing if it is done in the name of the people rather than the media’s ratings/pride), and the politicians put their quest for power ahead of their obligation to promote a fully engaged democracy, it is the electorate that lose out.

It seems that the politicians really don’t believe we understand that a series of political debates should not be the only basis on which we choose which box to tick.

It seems the TV executives believe it is more important for them to appear to be strong and politically agnostic in the face of political pressure, than for the politicians to appear on the box.

Meanwhile, membership of political parties of all colours plummets to all time lows.

Constituents lose interest and become disengaged with the political process.

Fewer and fewer people care to vote.

Protest parties that represent extremes flourish.

Political leadership is about taking people with you, not just expecting them to follow.

How can people follow an empty podium? Why should voters bother to tune in to a media that uses the ‘privilege of principle’ to avoid the public spectacle of a ‘people’s forum’?

Politicians – trust the people to see through the artefact of a televised debate to distinguish hype from substance.

Broadcasters – put your principles to one side to find a compromise that gives the people who pay your TV licence and your advertisers what they want – a representative debate.

Ultimately the real loser if neither party finds a way to put pragmatism ahead of principle will be democracy.

And if democracy fails, neither the media nor politicians do well.

And we, the people, are the people who suffer the most.

 

7 thoughts on “Democracy versus Debate.

  • 25th February 2015 at 7:21 am
    Permalink

    It IS however even more important for political leaders to get across to the electorate what they believe in, what they’ll fight for and how they will deserve our vote. If not through “old” broadcast media, which I agree is as political as the politicians and run by media barons who are not transparent about their goal of ratings-chasing, then how? Social media has to be the answer. You Tube, blogs and vlogs are beginning to overtake traditional channels – this democratisation of media gives the public a voice and the real genuine political leaders, who aren’t afraid of openness, transparency, honesty and engaging in a truly democratic debate will win if they embrace this. Keep it up Clive.

    Reply
    • 25th February 2015 at 3:52 pm
      Permalink

      I agree with you Jessica, see my response to Andrew, and thanks for engaging :)

      Reply
  • 25th February 2015 at 7:24 am
    Permalink

    I’m not convinced that televised debates allow the electorate to better scrunitise policy or increase the level of engagement with politics. My view is that although viewing figures may be high that they simply serve to reinforce the view that politics between the main parties is tribal rather than based on principle. Indeed, I would go further and suggest that the debates legitimise and provide a platform for the extreme parties. I for one do not believe that televised debates enhance our democracy, rather they diminish and trivialise it.

    Reply
    • 25th February 2015 at 3:52 pm
      Permalink

      I share Jessica’s point of view on this. I agree that for some the debates may trivialise the issues, but it is incumbent on our leaders to set the tone and make their positions clear. Whether we, or the body politic and democracy like it, we have entered and moved beyond “My MTV” to twitter, instagram and YouTube. Election campaigns need to reflect this. TV debates have a role to play and the reason we don’t have them is nothing to do with the sort of issues you raise Andrew (which I tend to agree with0< but because our Leaders seem to care more about winning than they do about the overall principle of democracy.

      Reply
      • 6th March 2015 at 9:15 am
        Permalink

        The proliferation of channels through which communucation can occur has so far not improved the quality of the message or people’s engagement with it (except of course for this website!). I also think that the live debates simply served to highlight what the leaders didn’t believe in rather than what they did believe in. I found it all rather unedifying. I think a better format might be a tightly moderated Q&A for each leader individually in front of a representative audience, where each leader is required to talk about their policies, actually answer questions and not criticise the other parties’ positions. The audience would also need to sign up to some standards of behaviour otherwise it could descend into the same farce as the last leader debates.

        Reply
  • 25th February 2015 at 6:23 pm
    Permalink

    The electorate benefits from a hearing different candidates’ views on the same topic and, I believe, the candidate’s ability to think on their toes, under pressure.

    I find the tone and structure of Question Time perfect. I find David Dimbleby’s even-handed and, unlike many TV anchorman, timid–he is not looking for a soundbite or trying to push a candidate to trip.

    YouTube, Twitter et al. socia media channels are soap boxes where candidates can say whatever they want without any concern with facts or transparency.

    Reply
  • 5th March 2015 at 3:54 pm
    Permalink

    In America, there’s very little substance in national candidate debates. By the time presidential debates commence, candidate platforms are well established, so it’s mostly a contest of bravado and scripted one-liners. Perhaps the only benefit to audiences is determining the ability of candidates to think quickly on their feet and measuring their oratory skills. But with scant adhesion to debate protocol and procedure, there’s very little substance. Local election debates are often similar, although importance of exposure for candidates can be critical to their viability.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>