There has been much debate about the legitimacy of inviting fringe figures – particularly those on the far right, or accused of it – onto mainstream media programmes, with the BBC’s output proving the most contentious in the UK due to its reach and unique status.
Ash Sarkar of Novara Media gave an interesting video overview of the topic following recent BBC interviews with Nigel Farage, most recently of the Brexit Party, and the US conservative pundit Ben Shapiro.
Laying aside her narrower political claims, Sarkar makes good points about the usefulness of the short interview format favoured by magazine-style programmes. The fringe pundit’s game, she suggests, is primarily getting airtime, rather than outfoxing the interviewer, who if well informed can back people into a corner.
Though I’m a fan of long-form content, I doubt her suggestion it is much more effective in delegitimising particular views than short form. For the political enthusiast an hour-long interview is more informative than five minutes, but it’s just as subject to the biases of the viewer, whose mileage will always vary regarding who “wins” a political argument.
The other problem is that fewer people have the patience to wade through hours of political content than will watch a two minute clip, and the likes of Joe Rogan’s podcast and James O’Brien’s LBC segments show that even a three hour interview can be sliced into viral content.
On a wider point, to what extent is it the BBC’s role to “challenge the strategic objectives” of its guests, to quote Sarkar? I don’t object to a scrutinising interview, but much of the debate about platforming and free speech has been undergirded by the attempts of different political factions to rig the rules in their favour.
The regulation of political communications has always been subject to such interference, you’d might (correctly) say. It’s a dismal fact all the same.