Monday, January 30, 2017

No Choice (1982)

Party News from the March 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard

The latest series of Sunday night programmes from the Christians at the BBC is very aptly named. The producers of Choices choose what they want to be said on their "audience participation" programme, and make sure they get it. On January 18, six SPGB members sat in the audience. In a "warm up discussion" before the recording began, one of the producers assured us that nothing would be cut out because they don't like it; the amount of time recorded would be roughly the amount of time screened. But in the event, at least ten minutes more was recorded than was screened, and the one SPGB member who managed to get a point raised in the discussion was cut out. Apparently, in a discussion about mass starvation, to point out that there is in fact potentially food for all, but that private property and the profit system leave millions hungry, is considered irrelevant.

The member who had been cut out then contacted the producers and offered to appear on a subsequent programme as one of the special guests who raise propositions which are the subject of the discussions. The proposition was to be that belief in god holds back the human race, and the producer agreed to the idea in principle. Then, an hour later, a phone- call: he has his doubts, it might not be suitable. Two hours later, another call. He has found someone else. A Communist Party member who is also in the Church Army. The proposition is to be the opposite of the previous suggestion: Christians have a "moral duty" to "redistribute wealth". Surprise, surprise. Christianity is compatible with "socialism" after all. The BBC has decided.

The story does have a final twist. We received six tickets as compensation, to attend the programme on which the Church Army "Communist" was appearing. Two members made comments which were both screened this time. But the fact remains, Choices, like the rest of the media, is the opposite of what it claims to be. Free debate on any subject means edited debate on carefully vetted subjects. Serious discussion on important matters means shallow platitudes on side issues. And audience participation by "the public" means a few seconds for a few lucky individuals, out of thousands of hours and millions of people.
Clifford Slapper

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