Last night's Newsnight spent much of its time navel-gazing. Part of this exercise was a joint interview, hosted by Gavin Esler, between Ben Bradshaw and his Conservative shadow Jeremy Hunt. This was a chance to find out exactly what each of the main parties believes about the future of the BBC, but it was an opportunity that (by and large) went begging. The focus of most of Esler's questioning fell on Conservative policy, with 8 questions to Jeremy Hunt and only 5 to Ben Bradshaw - and of those five, as you will see, three were also about the Conservatives rather than Labour policy. Esler interrupted Jeremy Hunt 6 times, either asking him another question or talking over the end of his answer to ask Ben Bradshaw a question. Bradshaw, on the other hand, was not interrupted even once by Gavin Esler - including when he was attacking the Tories at length (as he spent most of his time doing).
Here's an outline of the interview:
21.31 Question 1 (to Jeremy Hunt): "Is the BBC too big?"
21.32 Answer 1 (JH)
22.10 Interruption of JH 1/Q2 (to JH): "How far would you go with...I'm sorry to interrupt...but BBC3? BBC4? I mean some people see these as peripheral. It depends where you define the boundaries, as Mark Thompson was talking about. Are they peripheral?"
22.17 Answer 2 (JH)
22.29 Question 3 (to Ben Bradshaw:) "Do you think the BBC's too big?"
22.31 Answer 3 (BB)
23.o4 Question 4 (to Jeremy Hunt): "But is there a big philosophical difference between y...I mean do you think if the BBC duplicates things that could be done quite easily commercially, the BBC shouldn't do it?
23.13 Answer 4 (JH)
23.38 Question 5 (to Ben Bradshaw:) "You said this week, or you were quoted in the Media Guardian as saying, that there's no doubt there's a deal between the Tories who've basically subcontracted their media and broadcasting policy to News International and Rupert Murdoch. I mean, do you really have any evidence of that?"
23.49 Answer 5 (BB) (Bradshaw attacks the Tories)
24.32 Question 6 (to Jeremy Hunt:) "Is this purely a coincidence that you just happen to be, you know, two brains but with a single thought?"
24.35 Answer 6 (JH)
25.14 Interruption of JH 2/Question 7 (to Jeremy Hunt): "But are there some areas of broadcasting policy where Rupert Murdoch is just wrong?"
25.19 Answer 7 (JH)
25.37 Question 8 (to Ben Bradshaw): "Rupert Murdoch is wrong on something as major as the licence fee, therefore they're not in lock-step?"
25.41 Answer 8 (BB) (Bradshaw attacks the Tories)
26.08 JH continues
(Interruption by BB at 26.11)
26.39 Interruption of JH 3/Question 9 to Jeremy Hunt) "OK, let's return in the next few minutes to the main part of this conversation, which was about the future of the BBC and what kind of future that will be. I mean, in terms of the licence fee you suggested in September that given the economic circumstances the BBC should just say 'We can't have an inflationary increase in the money that we take. We should just waive that.' I mean, is it your policy or is it ever likely to be your policy to freeze the licence fee, or is that simply something that you want the BBC to do because it's morally right, for some reason, because of inflation, and because some people are hurting?"
27.10 Answer 9 (JH)
27.22 Interruption by BB, attacking the Tories
27.30 JH continues
27.42 Interruption of JH 4/Question 10 (to Jeremy Hunt): "But you suggested freezing it - am I right? - in May" (BB vigorously nods his head and 'mmm's in agreement)
27.44 Answer 10 (JH)
28.00 Question 11 (to Ben Bradshaw): "It's ridiculous for the BBC to take an inflationary rise when people are hurting, when there is zero inflation?"
28.05 Answer 11 (BB), attacking the Tories
28.27 JH continues
28.40 Interruption of JH 5/Question 12 (to Ben Bradshaw): "But the implication of what Jeremy Hunt is saying is in ten years time the BBC will be just as safe under a Conservative government as it would be under a Labour government, but both will continue to criticise it - and that's perfectly right."
28.52 Answer 12 (BB), attacking the Tories
29.06 JH interrupts BB, & takes over
29.31 Interruption of JH 6/Question 13 (to Jeremy Hunt): "Which you would split?"
29.35 Answer 13 (JH)
29.47 "Thank you both very much."