BBC Parliament in for the high jump

Here's news to upset armchair politicians - the BBC is ditching Parliament TV during the Beijing Olympics.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The broadcaster has announced it will withdraw the digital channel from Freeview in favour of August’s games, in order to make full use of its capacity and enhance the interactive side of its Olympics offering. Its in-depth coverage of committee hearings will therefore be replaced by a raft of minor Olympic sports like synchronised swimming – which is fine for those who like watching teams in vests belting round tracks, punching each other and throwing things. But may well raise ire among those looking to watch teams in suits belting out rhetoric, hitting lecterns and throwing tantrums.

It just shows how far we’ve come since they first proposed putting cameras in Parliament. The idea sparked fears at the time of egotistical MPs grandstanding for their adoring public. What they hadn’t realised is that it would turn out so massively dull that few people would even care. Indeed, half the time you tune in there’s only half a dozen MPs crowding round the camera to make the chamber look busier, while members of the House of Lords look like they’ve nodded off as they crane their necks to listen to the speakers in the back of their chairs. The channel posted a mere 258,000 weekly viewers last August.

The BBC has pointed out that Parliament and committees are in recess during that month, a period in which BBC Parliament usually treats its loyal viewers to repeats of major political events, such as coverage of past general elections. 
Perhaps the way forward is to find a middle ground between the two – why not show broadcast reruns of Prescott’s famous boxing exploits, clips of Boris Johnson on his bike, and highlights of classic election races? Plus, of course, Tony Blair jumping ever higher whenever Cherie barked at him to do so…

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