Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Moral Maze's response on Melanie Phillips

This is the response from the Moral Maze on the complaint that was previously sent by some of us to them about the inclusion of Melanie Phillips and now Kenan Malik as a panellist:

"Thank you for your letter about the Moral Maze and I'm sorry that you feel unhappy about the series. I too feel that the best way to answer your concerns is to look at the editorial decision making process behind the series.

The conceit of the programme (broadcast live 25 times a year) is that the panellists are NOT objective about the subjects of the week. They are chosen because they come with clear positions, passionately held. However, balance is achieved over the 43 minutes of each programme and over the run of a series because of the differing views of the panellists and of course the conflicting views of the witnesses. In addition, Michael Buerk, as chairman, is allowed to take the panellists to task if he believes they are over-stepping the mark. You may passionately disagree with Melanie Phillips's or Kenan Malik's views, and indeed the views of any of our panellists, but they are entitled to hold them and express them, just as you are free to object to them. (I notice that the quotes of Melanie Philips that you cite were not broadcast on the Moral Maze).

It is indeed true that at the moment we do not have a Muslim panellist on the programme, but that is not unfair, nor does it amount to discrimination against Muslims because when we do discuss subjects that affect Muslims in Britain, we have Muslim witnesses. It would be wrong for the programme not to discuss a subject unless we have a member of the panel who has direct experience of the issue. I feel your argument over representation might have had more merit if the Moral Maze did, as you say, "spend a considerable amount of time discussing Muslims in Britain" but going back nearly 2 years to the beginning of 2007 the Moral Maze has discussed subjects which touch on this issue only 3 times in a total of 55 programmes. For your records those editions were: 13/2/08 after the Archbishop of Canterbury's speech on Sharia Law, 6/2/08 on new Home Office guidelines for civil servants and police advising them not to use phrases such as "Islamist extremism" or "jihadi-fundamentalist" and on 4/7/07 after the Glasgow Airport bombing on how far is it morally right to engage with those who plan and carry out atrocities in an effort to understand their causes".

I'll be posting up a preliminary response that I am putting together in a few days. Any advice would be most appreciated: bradfordmuslimatyahoodotcodotuk.