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Wednesday 27 August 2014

New Vincent Browne TV show descends into farce

Writer/comedian takes a satirical look at TV3's latest experiment in democracy

Abie Philbin Bowman

Published 06/03/2014 | 13:19

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Journalist Vincent Browne
Vincent Browne: 90 minute televised "People's Debate

The new Vincent Browne TV show aired on TV3 last night, which billed itself as "a bold new experiment in democracy" was a perfect illustration of why democracy doesn't work.

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During the 90 minute televised "People's Debate", workable solutions and objective analysis were shoved aside by a cacophony of axe-grinding, electioneering, and miscellaneous shouting.

Much like the democratic system itself, the programme actively fuelled public disengagement with politics.

Those standing on the sidelines, mocking proceedings on Twitter, clearly had their cynicism vindicated by the awful standard of debate.

According to one political correspondent, "it was a bit like watching a county council meeting, but with more politicians, and less focus."

The open format of the show was intended to allow free-flowing discussion of important problems.

However, much like the democratic process it claimed to champion, the debate was largely hijacked by aspiring action groups aiming to advance their own agendas.

Elsewhere in studio, activists jockeyed for prominence, taking populist stances to loud cheers and boos from the audience.

While the show promised to be inclusive, and appeal to TV viewers normally alienated by current affairs, it delivered the opposite. The show effectively depriving viewers across the country of an entertaining Hollywood blockbuster, replacing it with a show which only postgraduates in political science could possibly find entertaining.

Even those who took part, felt the format mitigated against enlightened debate.

"When we were waiting to go into studio, a small group of us had a really honest discussion about the way politics is demonised in this country, and how poisonous that is for our future..." said one contributor. "But once the lights were on, and the camera was rolling, I found myself shouting and calling the government a bunch of bloody traitors."

In tandem with Ireland's democratic system, the show did nothing to address the existential threats facing Irish Society, such as the looming energy crisis, Ireland's place in a new economic world order, or the ever more potent reality of Climate Change.

The show did, however, achieve one major landmark.

By the time the credits rolled, it was probably the first show in the history of Irish television, to have more people in studio, than watching at home.

Despite the programmes promise to make democracy exciting, engaging and accessible, the handful of viewers who did watch to the end, felt uninspired. "I'm a total politics nerd, but I actually feel way less excited about democracy now, than when I started watching that" wrote Benjamin Murphy, aged 12, on Facebook.

Abie Philbin Bowman is a comedian, writer and broadcaster with Arena and Callan's Kicks, on RTE Radio 1. @AbiePB

 

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