We had a long drive back from the north-east last weekend. Six hours or so, including a stop halfway, just past Britain’s most crepuscular town, Grantham. My wife does the driving because she thinks I’ll kill us all. My job is to feed album after album into the car’s admirably old-fashioned CD player. I rarely play more than three or four songs from the same album because my wife gets tetchy and says something like ‘This is too noisy’ or ‘This is boring, change it.’ So I’m kept pretty busy. Every time I remove a CD, the car’s ‘entertainment centre’ reverts to its default position of playing Radio 4.
And here’s the point. We set out at midday. It was five hours before I heard a male voice on Radio 4, when Saturday PM came on. Five hours. We must have heard snatches (an appropriate term, I think) of Radio 4 40 or 50 times and on each occasion it was a woman moaning about something. Moan, moan, moan, all the livelong day. Women were moaning as we passed Thirsk, Selby, Doncaster. They were still moaning at Retford and Newark and Grantham. Their moaning was often afforded succour by the presenter — always female — who did a spot of empathetic moaning alongside them. Marginal moaning, tendentious moaning, gratuitous moaning. A drama with foreign women moaning. A discussion programme with British women moaning. It was ceaseless.
Apparently, some Radio 4 news and current affairs programmes, such as Today, are now required to ensure that at least 50 per cent of their contributors are female, in each show, otherwise the producers get hauled over the coals. This is because the job of these programmes is not to tell us what is going on by reporting the world as it actually is, but to indulge in a spot of social engineering and report the world as its idiotic liberal panjandrums wish it were. And to treat its audience with contempt.
Interviewees are no longer selected on whether they’ve got something interesting to say, or occupy a position of power and should be held to account, but simply because they are in possession of a vagina. Or, maybe, identify as being in possession of a vagina.
It would seem to me that Today and the World at One and so on should have no women on their programmes whatsoever, so as to provide a balance with the rest of Radio 4’s output. The network would still have a preponderance of female voices overall, but there would be two or three male ghettos (the programmes people actually listen to).
The BBC will argue that this quota system is simply an attempt to represent an estimated 51 per cent of the British population, i.e. women, and is nothing to do with social engineering or political correctness. Well, if so, fine. Indeed, perhaps the BBC might consider expanding this scheme to ensure that other sectors of the British population which account for more than 50 per cent overall might equally be allowed 50 per cent representation on air. Such as? Here’s a quick list, then:
People who want the UK to leave the European Union — 52 per cent (Source: that referendum we had in 2016).
People who think Islam is not compatible with the British way of life — 56 per cent (ComRes poll, 2016).
People who disagree with the ‘right’ of gay people to adopt children — 52 per cent (British Social Attitudes Survey 2013).
People who think immigration levels to this country are too high — 63 per cent (YouGov poll, 2018).
People who think immigration in general has had a negative impact in the UK — 71 per cent (Sky poll for the think tank Demos, 2018).
Europeans who want to stop all immigration from Muslim majority countries — 55 per cent (Chatham House, 2017).
People who believe Britain is a Christian country — 55 per cent (YouGov poll, 2014).
People who think, rightly, that there are just two genders, male and female — 56 per cent (Fawcett Society, 2016).
People who do not identify as ‘feminist’ — 93 per cent (Fawcett Society, 2016).
Now, tell me if you think those views are proportionately represented on the BBC, and especially Radio 4? Do you think they are given equal airtime to the less popular liberal standpoints which nonetheless the BBC supports? If so, you have been listening to a very different Auntie to me over the past ten years. In almost every case quoted above, people who express those sorts of views are considered by the BBC to be antediluvian and quite beyond the pale, and the usual discussion to be had is: what can we do to make these morons change their minds? Those views quoted above are simply wrong, so far as the BBC is concerned, and there’s an end to it, even when those views are in a clear majority.
We can quantify at least one of those prejudices: we have hard facts, thanks to the tireless efforts of Lord Pearson of Rannoch, the former leader of Ukip, who has spent years exhaustively detailing the airtime given by the BBC to people (the majority, remember) who wished for the UK to leave the European Union. So here are the figures. Out of 4,275 guests talking about the EU on the Today programme between 2005 and 2015, only 132, or 3.2 per cent, were supporters of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Now that seems to me an imbalance. It seems to me as though the BBC is not representing its listenership and that maybe quotas should be introduced.
It wasn’t a bad run home from Middlesbrough, except for a tailback at Huntingdon caused by the complete closure of the A1 for 20 or so miles. It occurred to me, as we sat in the traffic, that maybe they closed it because insufficient women had been seen driving on that stretch of the road. That’s what it does to you, listening to Radio 4 these days.