Yesterday I went to London to give evidence to the Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport — which is considering the future of the BBC and the renewal of its Royal Charter (matters the government must shortly decide). Never having done this before, I prepared carefully, read a lot and pondered as deeply as I could. I also submitted a written statement.
I went expecting to be thoroughly grilled by a group of suspicious and well-informed legislators. Instead there was a genial conversation between the five ‘witnesses’ and members of the Select Committee, few of whom appeared to have given much prior thought to the issues under discussion. It was the opposite of forensic examination. Most of the MPs’ ‘questions’ were combinations of statement, thinking aloud and query. They were unexpectedly courteous and deferential. The Chairman, Gerald Kaufman (who in an earlier life had been Harold Wilson’s Press Secretary — the 1960s equivalent of Alastair Campbell), beamed at us like a benevolent gnome. And proceedings wound up at noon — 30 minutes before we had expected to be released.
As I got up to leave, who should hove into view but Cory Doctorow, now resident in London (a cause for celebration IMHO). He was, like me, dressed in a suit and tie, something I never thought I would see. And he had been forbidden by officials to use his laptop, so had been obliged to sit through the proceedings without touching a keyboard. It was great to see him. We walked up Whitehall together (past police officers armed with Heckler & Koch hardware) while he related the saga of his attempts to get Orange to sell him a mobile phone. Then I took two of my sons to lunch in the Garrick, most of whose members are as genially ignorant of digital technology as were the members of the Select Committee. It seemed a fitting way to end a puzzling day.