I have a new pet hate on the BBC. (And it's not a small field, the BBC figures I love to hate). Nihal Arthanayake took over the 1pm to 4pm slot known as Afternoon Editon a few months ago. The first few times I heard him I wondered who this pleasant sounding, mild voiced chap was. And why did he keep repeating himself, speaking painfully slowly and generally losing my attention because of the snail like pace of his show? Mrs H also noticed the slow pace, asking who was this chap who seemed to need winding up?
For anyone who suspects my dislike of Nihal has any hint of racism I would note that, other than suspecting his accent was vaguely London sounding, I had no idea of his name, background or colour the first 20 or so times I listened to him. It was a genuinely "blind" assessment on my part. It turns out I should have known of Nihal, or DJ Nihal as he had been known earlier in his career, first as a rapper, then music promoter and journalist and then award winning radio DJ, broadcasting on Radio 1 for 12 years, as I learned when I Googled for the name of the twerp who had by then been boring me to tears for weeks whenever I heard him.
I had already long decided Nihal was not to my taste when yesterday I got in the car and left Five Live on despite hearing his dulcet tones. For the first time Nihal managed to get me not just engaged but enraged. He was debating Brexit with two callers, in particular freedom of movement. Nihal just could not understand why anyone would be prepared to give up this precious (to him and some others) freedom, even in exchange for other freedoms. The persistant Brexit-supporting caller made the point that it would still be possible to live and work in EU countries, it would just require acceptance via a process. The caller may also have been a person of colour as Nhial challenged that in that case "you might end up being racially profiled". The caller calmly said words to the effect of why would I want to go where I wasn't wanted. This is exactly an argument I have been making. Nihal disparaged this argument calling it ridiculous or maybe something stronger.
Now whether you think it is an argument with merit is a judgement - how important it is for you to be able to travel and stay to work permit free to some countries while not being able to do so for many other countries. What the argument is not is ridiculous. Personally I have no difficulty if the ease of travel to the EU becomes no different from Australia or the USA, even if that means it is not quite as convenient as it is now. And if I wanted to live in the warmer climate (and maybe try to find work, ha ha) of, say, Spain or Italy then why would I want to go if they didn't want to have me? So I place a low value on freedom of movement though I accept that others place a high value on it.
Nihal didn't seem capable of seeing past his own value set on this issue. He then went on to say the caller was wrong and was telling lies in a further debate on trade.
Now I thought the caller was also probably incorrect in what he was saying about trade. But BBC presenters abusing callers rather than challenging in more moderate terms was new on me, other than football phone-ins perhaps.
Maybe the Beeb has decided it has lost so much ground to LBC and TalkSport that it has to be more controversial. The problem is that Nihal wasn't just being controversial, he was closing the debate down without attempting to explain why he took a different view from the caller, or tease out the issues behind what dissolved into a shouting match.
Well Nihal, I can assure you my words about you were very much stronger. Next time I hear you I will reach straight for the station change button. I wonder why you got picked for the job? Let me guess.....suited the optimal profile on age and some other parameters perhaps? Sorry to come over all Michael Buerk on you* but there must have been some reasons Five Live chose you, other than Radio 1 needing to move you on...
* Michael Buerk famously said that female television presenters and news readers who had been given jobs because they "look nice" shouldn't complain of ageism when they lose them. "If you got the job in the first place mainly because you look nice, I can't see why you should keep it when you don't," he said. https://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/apr/08/michael-buerk-female-presenters-ageism-looks