Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The BBC, Fairer Votes and Reform


What's that all about?

Well, a quick google gives this as a dictionary definition.

re·form  (r-fôrm)v. re·formedre·form·ingre·
1. To improve by alteration, correction of error, or removal of defects; put into a better form or condition.
2.a. To abolish abuse or malpractice in: reform the government.b. To put an end to (a wrong). See Synonyms at correct.
3. To cause (a person) to give up harmful or immoral practices; persuade to adopt a better way of life.
To change for the better.
1. A change for the better; an improvement.
2. Correction of evils, abuses, or errors.
3. Action to improve social or economic conditions without radical or revolutionary change.
By any standards, changing the voting system so that MPs have to work harder to win the trust of half of their voters* is a change for the better, and deserves to be called a reform.

The BBC high heed yins have apparently issued guidance barring its presenters from using the word "reform" in this context. Even if you don't agree with it, that organisation calls any sort of Government proposal for change "reform" so not to do so is inconsistent.

To me, it's the BBC being timid.  This is an example of the BBC risking their impartiality by being too cautious, pandering to the No to AV campaign, which is made up of powerful people trying to protect their vested interests.

The Yes to Fairer Votes people are writing to the BBC Director General to complain. When I signed up on Monday afternoon, only around 2,800 people had signed. Now it's nearly 13,000.

If you haven't already, why don't you sign up and let's see if we can get to 15,000 by the end of the day.

*Post updated to make clear that the person elected under AV secures a majority of the votes cast. Under the current system, for example such as in Oldham East and Saddleworth in May 2010, the MP was elected on a mere 31% of the votes cast.


martijn said...

I agree that it's all a bit silly, but I don't agree with your argument "By any standards, changing the voting system so that MPs have to work harder to win the trust of half of their electorate is a change for the better, and deserves to be called a reform." Obviously there are people who think these reforms/changes will not be a change for the better (I am not among them, mind you) so it is understandable they don't want to use a positive noun describing the changes. (I never think of a reform as something unambigiously positive, by the way, but I'm not a native speaker of English.)

If a government would propose a set of much stricter immigration rules -- which, sadly, many people would think to be an improvement -- and the BBC called them "immigration reform" would you be happy with that?

Scott said...

AV does guarantee the victor wins " the trust of half of their electorate"

Real example here

Scott said...

AV does not guarantee the victor wins "the trust of half of their electorate"

Real example here

Radar said...

I agree with Martijn on all parts.

Some people obviously don't hold the same opinion (as us) so therefore there standards don't have this as a change for the better.

In addition I also don't see the word reform and automatically think it'll be a change for the better - in fact I didn't realise that was what it should mean until this debate. Maybe it's all the years of associating it with Labour changes.

I signed the petition by the way earlier today

Anonymous said...

"Reform" is commonly used in English, and by the media, to mean changes in the context of legislation.

So yes, the BBC would be fine to use "immigration reform". It probably already has

See, eg:

Andrew said...

Very right radar. Reform doesn't always have positive connotations...I'm thinking of Patricia Hewitt's health "reforms" in particular!

At the end of the day, the BBC is there to inform and educate about the issue. Not everyone agrees with us that these reforms and changes are for the better, but let's please accept them for what they are. The BBC, like the rest of the media, are normally very happy to use the terms "reform" and "change" interchangeably to describe any small political proposals and shifts in policy direction, so what's the problem in this case?

It all seems a storm in a teacup to me...the kind of thing the BBC really should be above.

Petition signed, by the way!

DBirkin said...

Firstly, no mps under AV do not need a majority of support from their electorate.

Secondly you seem to be saying that because the BBC are not taking sides with the yes campaign that they are being unfair...kind of childish dont you think

Caron said...

Martjin, the point is that they would describe them as reform - they have used it as a neutral word to describe Government change. To not use it in this case is inconsistent and makes them look as though they are pandering to the vested interests which make up the no campaign.

I have amended the post to tighten up the wording on the 50% issue.

DBirkin said...

Caron, even your amended version is still a little misleading, but hey its your opinion, you can think what you want.

However the BBC cannot take sides like you want it to in this referendum.

Please answer this question, how is the BBC not using the word 'reform' going to help the no campaign unfairly?

DBirkin said...

...oh and sorry, you do mean that the Elected MP needs to get 50% of the last round votes, not of the total votes cast don't you?

For example if 100 people vote but only 70 of them preferenced either of the candidate in the last round of voting the winning mp would only have 36% of the total votes cast even if they got 50%+ of the last round votes.

Important note really because you seem to be comparing total vote % to last round % and as you can see ^ they do not mean the same thing.


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