Letter of the week: TV news should stick to facts

A selection of the best letters received from our readers this week. Email letters@newstatesman.co.uk to have your thoughts voiced in the New Statesman magazine.

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Roger Mosey (Off the Air, 22 February) criticises the BBC’s decision to shorten BBC News at Ten by five minutes, and the regional news bulletin that follows from 11 to seven minutes.

I disagree. A news bulletin should be that, news, and not padded out with (often unnecessary) comment. I have lost count of the number of times I have screamed at the TV screen when Huw Edwards has asked Laura Kuenssberg for her “thoughts” on a particular matter.

Frequently, too, special reporters begin by simply repeating the facts given in the newscaster’s introduction. Tighter editorial control should ensure that nothing of importance is lost by there being a shorter bulletin. As for the regional news, perhaps, here in East Anglia, a shorter bulletin will help to stop the programme from frequently being a mini-Newsnight, and prompt it to start covering instead the region’s real news stories of the day.

David Lamming
Boxford, Suffolk

Checking privilege

Meghan Markle’s observation that British academia is pale, male and stale came under criticism in Tom Bower’s diary (The Diary, 22 February). He fears that such remarks tread into dangerous territory, since if we start appointing senior academics on the basis of their race or gender (and not excellence!), we will destroy British academia.

Let me reassure him that those of us concerned about academia’s appalling lack of diversity are not calling for universities to gift jobs to people on the grounds of their race or gender. Rather we recognise the structural barriers that make entry to academia harder for people from marginalised groups, as well as the operation of implicit biases against individuals from those groups. We ought to work to correct those injustices, so that excellent members of marginalised groups can take their seat at the academic table.

If Bower is keen to judge the state of British academia concerning its excellence, I suggest he steers clear of such straw man arguments. The irony is too much to bear.

Dr Ema Sullivan-Bissett
University of Birmingham

Can I congratulate you on the wonderfully funny diary by Tom Bower? It was the best laugh I’ve had in weeks. How did Private Eye sneak that past you?

Peter Boon
London E11

Back to the future

Do others feel as I do that Britain – and possibly Europe, or at least parts of it – is slipping towards total disaster? After years of austerity under the Cameron/Osborne governments, we now face possible economic meltdown as a result of Brexit.

We have a rudderless government sliding further and further to the right, with politicians blatantly lying to the people. We have an inept opposition, seemingly riddled with anti-Semitism and bullying. Labour is likely to remain as an extreme left-wing party for years to come, having disastrously accepted that just about anyone can join as a member. To me, all of this smacks of the 1930s, and we know where that ended. Am I right to be afraid?

Michael Steed
Nettleton, Lincolnshire

Made in Tehran?

Do I detect just a little bit of sensationalism on your cover article on Iran (“The revolution that fuelled radical Islam”, 15 February)? Even the author Michael Axworthy notes that the revolution did not have any direct influence on the region or on the world, which I agree with.

Whether the siege of Mecca in 1979 was inspired by the revolution is highly doubtful. The group was formed of Sunni Muslims who had nothing to do with the revolution and were very quickly disowned by Ayatollah Khomeini. It led to a more strict form of Islam being practised in Saudi Arabia but hardly had any effect in mainstream Muslim populations in the world.

As far as I remember the next significant uprising was in Kashmir in 1986 – the struggle for the independence of Kashmir (which continues to this day) – and it certainly had no relation to the Iranian Revolution. Although the majority of people in Kashmir are Sunni Muslims, the struggle is not a religious one.

The revolution was internal to Iran and stayed so, notwithstanding its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and the desire of the regime to export it. It might have given some Shias around the world food for thought, but as the author correctly points out, it happened for political rather than religious reasons to begin with. As the regime became more and more deeply religious, it lost support among the population and continues to do so even now.

Mehmood Mir
Glasgow

Social media seer

What JB Priestley would have made of our social media “one can only guess”, states John Baxendale in his letter (Correspondence, 22 February).

So, here’s JB Priestley in Outcries and Asides (1974): “Just consider the research scientists, experimental psychologists, psychiatrists, sociologists… bringing out reports… we don’t seem to have arrived after so much care and public expense out into clear sunlight, illuminating the eager eyes of youth.”

And, as he famously wrote in Out of the People (1941): “Every hour we are making political statements, whether we are aware of it or not.”

Mike Bor
London W2

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This article appears in the 01 March 2019 issue of the New Statesman, How Brexit broke politics