The First Edition of Crossfire – BBC Radio Scotland

So the BBC has launched, with very little razzmatazz, the “Crossfire” show on Sunday mornings on Radio Scotland. This replaces the much loved and applauded “Headlines” show. So how did it go? What are the impressions left after the first edition? I listened to it all the way through. If you want to find what was being said about it in real time while it was on air search twitter for the hashtag #rscrossfire.

Sadly, the impressions are not good at all. The show followed this pattern:

  • Host (John Beattie) introduces a topic
  • Co-presenter 1 gives their version of that topic
  • Co-presenter 2 gives their version of that topic
  • Very polite discussion follows with both co-presenters repeating what they just said.

And so on…….

Now, it was very polite, very measured, very civilised even. No-one spoke over the top of anyone else. No views put across by any presenter were challenged in any way. And there, in that statement is the whole problem. No-one was challenged. Nothing said was disputed. There was no “Hang on a minute, can you explain how you got to that figure/view/factoid?”. Nothing. Not for either the YES or the NO side. Both were guilty of simply parroting their standard messages, which we’ve all heard so many times before, without any attempt to get behind the soundbites. It was boring. Pure and simple. Listening to the two co-presenters reading from their “scripts” for each topic does not make for a good radio show.

Now John Beattie is a nice guy and he fronts a terrific rock’n’roll band but sadly for this programme he’s not Paxman. To be fair, John may not have had much time to prepare for this the first show as the line-up for the show wasn’t even on the BBC Radio Scotland website as the show was being broadcast. So he was probably parachuted in relatively late in the day.

The only time the show became anything like lively was when they interviewed Claire Howell. All three hosts spoke with her and asked her questions about motivation and such like. She’s a motivational and psychology guru who has worked with Alex Salmond and many other leaders in sport and industry. She came over as natural and refreshingly not speaking from a script. More please!!


So BBC Scotland News – how are you going to fix this? (another question for the cynics might be “Do you even want to fix it?”) Here’s a couple of suggestions :

  1. Give the host more time to prep. John Beattie does a fair job on his lunchtime slot, but now he’s on 6 days a week. To make this a decent show the host needs to be able to grill those presenting views , so QED the host needs to have a decent level of understanding of both sides of the indyref debate.
  2. Get more “External” people’s views on this. You are the BBC for goodness sake. You have (or had) clout in the world. Why not invite Prof Noam Chomsky onto the show? Why not invite other well qualified economists onto the show?
  3. Lighten up. It was dull and boring. Something that could never be said of “Headlines”.

Just as a comparison – the Sunday Post on the same day carried a front page story where they had contacted Prof Dunleavy and had him write up the costs of setting up Indy Scotland. Now if D.C. Thomson can do this, why can’t the BBC? Is it because they don’t want to?

2 out of 10 and a “Not good enough. Must try harder”.

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