Are you listening, BBC? America Needs You -- Why America Needs Question Time:
There's no shortage of Americans available to remind you that elected politicians often forget who put them in office. Once elected, priorities change, constituencies often differ (neighbors and constituents vs. lobbyists, etc.), and relationships change. Elected politicians have an obligation to the government in which they represent, and sometimes -- as unfortunate as it may be -- change is made best from the outside.
That being said, politicians far too often are not held accountable by the people who elected them, and faith and distrust of government will continue to grow as long as politicians remove themselves from the most integral part of the political process: debate.
Now, while the UK has got its own problems to sort -- and believe me, that list is long, just like any other industrialized nation -- a popular UK television program(me) called Question Time
finds a brilliant way of holding politicians and political individuals accountable to the public; at the very least, via a public debate.
In case you've not seen an episode of Question Time, here's a roundup: the program is produced by public broadcaster, BBC, which invites five individuals to participate in a panel debate in front of a live studio audience, who ask questions and deliver comments to the panel. While members of the panel represent different aspects of UK politics: government representatives, authors, pundits, candidates, scholars -- they are each treated fairly and in the same regard. There's a degree of respect amongst the panel without any ridiculous hierarchy and ego-inflating rubbish commonly found in American television. Members of the panel realize that their titles are not as important as the content coming from their mouths.
In American politics, as opposed to productive debate, Americans, unfortunately, witness only the public arguments and nicety that hasn't gotten us anywhere. The real debate happens behind-the-scenes in the so-called "backroom" (see: Albany, NY). Americans are disinterested in public policy, ill-informed in the affairs of government, and have been too excluded from the democratic process to care very much about the issues we face -- a dilemma that will only worsen. When as few as 1 in 10 Americans support the Congress and when as many as 60-70% disagree with the work of the government, there is much to be done. After all, governments only work when they have the consent of the governed, right?
One is not advocating a series of "President's Questions", in which the President would sit on Capitol Hill and answer compromising questions from the opposition.
But, America, you need Question Time. You deserve it. Americans deserve an opportunity to see our political leaders defend their beliefs. Americans deserve an opportunity to see political leaders challenged in an open and respectful environment. If trust is ever to be resotred between the public and the government, political leaders will need to be held accountable for their beliefs, their political actions, and the affairs of their government. In an era in which petty politics dominates the news coverage, it's time for national media to make a (literally) smart investment and give it a fair shot.
A daily program on a major broadcast network (like CBS, Fox, NBC, ABC) or perhaps a digital revolutionary like YouTube (are you listening, Google? ;)) would go a long way. Cable networks featuring programs with political pundits are entertaining, but do not challenge the decision makers. Current programs do not create a fair, legitimate platform for putting decisionmakers and pundits on the spotlight. The right kind of spotlight - where stories are generated with substance.
Programs today have not thus far met this need. Are you listening, networks and platforms? It's time to empower Americans and light the fire anew. America needs a program that empowers viewers, not the political mouthpieces.
Any of you G+ers watch #BBCQT
too? What're your thoughts?