Why oh why oh why?
It‘s been going for 30 years. but is Points Of View‘s only purpose to spawn a host ofpiss-takes‘? Tom Lappin spoke to presenter Anne Robinson. and checked what else is on offer in the way ofviewer comment shows.
‘I would gladly sell my house and everything I
own.‘ went the classic Not The Nine ()'( 'loek News sketch. pointedly mocking the tendency of the Barry 'I’ook era Points ()fl'iew to be rather less than unkind about BBC output. 'l‘hat sketch. and others from the likes of Fry and Laurie. French and Saunders and Jasper ( 'arrott will be shown again on a special 3(lth anniversary Points ()fl'iew celebrating the longevity of the BB("s complaints and comments strand. still filling the odd ten minutes before the news on a Wednesday evening. It‘s a typical touch ofself-deprecation that sums
3 up the show's attitude: ‘l.ook. we've got a sense of
humour. we can take a spot ofcriticisrn.
everything's fine. honest.‘ What is amazing. is that
for 30 years. the public has accepted this
patronising. paternalist approach. and allowed the
Corporation to answer its subscribers' grievances in a ten-minute round-up of letters read in ridiculously stagey accents. with the occasional
2 clip thrown in. the whole presented by an anodyne
figure speaking in soothing. ‘let‘s not get upset. dcar‘ tones. The latest incarnation. Anne Robinson. doesn't
quite see it this way ofcourse. She holds out an 1 image of herself as a kind of Esther Rantzen ofthe
airwaves. speaking out for the great viewing public. ‘What I try to do is to he the viewer.‘ she says. ‘1 don‘t regard myself as part of the BBC.
And it can be difficult being wedged between the
two. trying to get answers which I consider proper rather than evasive. Some producers are very good and some are very defensive. Some go to enormous lengths to hinder us. I think it was the Clothes Show that won‘t even let us have clips.‘ Maybe it's wrong to blame the presenter for the limitations ofa format and allotted time which allows little scope for sensible treatment of an issue. Then you remember that Robinson writes a column for the Daily Mirror. so is rather fond of the idea of packing a simplistic message into as short a space as possible. and never mind if the details don‘t quite fit. ‘I wonder really how much
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Rory McGrath presenter of Right To Reply depth you can go into in some subjects.‘ she says. ‘or whether it can all be said in five minutes. and you‘re chasing your tail after that. What l‘ve tried to do in my time. bearing in mind that it's ten minutes and it‘s got to be fast and entertaining. is a story that we can look into. We did film censorship recently. this idea that films shown on TV are arbitrarily cut. and there doesn't seem any rules about it. We found one week that all the swearing
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September at 6. 30pm
was left in the films on BBC- and cut on BBC]. l Rather bizarre decisions are taken. And we do i that sort of thing rather well. sandwiched in 3 between the letters of complaints.‘ 2 Oh yes. those letters. It‘s either something to do with the selection process. or the expectations the show raises in viewers. but why is it that so many of them are obsessed with trivial detail. when there are vital issues to he broached? ‘We look fora spirit ofdebate within the letters rather than just saying something is dreadful or disgusting or very ' good.‘ says Robinson. ‘And that’s the pearl in the l bouillabaisse. when you actually find a letter that I has some decent points to raise or take the subject : further. There are certain categories of people that I
can be relied on. public health inspectors are terrific for some reason.‘
"l'he pearl in the bouillabaisse‘.’ Actually. without mentioning the diamond in the mulligatawny. or g the opal in the custard. Robinson does admit that 5 she is astonished by the people who complain about the occasional hare buttock in The Singing Detective when they happily accepted the considerably more offensive Benny Hill night after night. In the end maybe the show‘s condescension is a natural result of the limited horizons of its viewers. ‘Every one goes to Edinburgh to discuss t the future of television.‘ she says. ‘hut in the end huge masses of people get really angry when Star ,
Trek is taken off for the cricket. You have to f address those people.‘ 3
Somewhat more ambitious in scope is Channel . 4's Right To Reply. which returns for a new series l on 30 September. The real bonus of this series is i that it gets the programme makers in the studio to 9 answer the viewer‘s charges. Admittedly the ' standard ofdebate rarely rises above the acrimonious ‘agreeing-to-disagree‘ level. but the sight of a producer squirming and oiling his way out of a valid question is a welcome one. The new series goes a step further. allowing the viewers to make their own reports on issues such as Prime Ministerial interviews and public access programming.
You get the sneaking feeling that the BBC used the Right To Reply approach as a model for a new series starting in November entitled Bitehaek. in theory offering somewhat more attack than Points Of View. Produced by an independent production company. Barraclough Carey. the programme‘s briefwill be to investigate complaints. and go behind the scenes to see where decisions are made. It is worrying though. that programme developer George Carey is already playing down the ‘watchdog‘ angle. ‘lfthe BBC are patently in the wrong about something. we don‘t intend to pull our punches.‘ he says. ‘On the other hand. our job isn't to pillory producers each week. We want to listen to what viewers say and investigate both sides ofthe argument. Above all. we want to make the programme bright and informative about how television works.‘ Sounds ominous. How long can it be before we get the first Bitebaek sketch?
The Points Of View30th Anniversary Special is on B B C] 0n WednesdayZ October at8.5()pm. Right To Reply starts on Channel 4 on Saturday 30
Biteback starts on BBC] in November.