John Lloyd

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Full name: John Lloyd

Area of interest: Current affairs / Politics and the Media

Journals/Organisation: Financial Times (magazine)

Email: |

Personal website:


Blogs: | Comment is free...






Career: Began as a copy boy on the Scottish Daily Mail; first reporting experience was as a freelance reporter in Belfast in the early seventies; has worked as a reporter for Independent Radio News, been the editor of Time Out and of the New Statesman, reporter for London Weekend’s London Programme and producer on London Weekend's Weekend World; at the Financial Times: Labour Editor, Industrial Editor, East European Editor and Moscow Bureau Chief. In 2003, he was the founding Editor of the Financial Times Weekend Magazine

Current position/role: Financial Times: Contributing editor - features, analysis, book reviews and a weekly column on UK TV in the Weekend FT

Other roles/Main role:

Other activities: The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism Director of Journalism



Broadcast media:

Video: Reporter and producer for London Weekend Television ’s London Programme and Weekend World



  • British Press Award for Specialist Reporter of the Year
  • Granada Award for Journalist of the Year
  • David Watt Prize for outstanding journalism



Books & Debate:

What the Media do to Our Politics John Lloyd.jpg
  • Understanding the miners strike OCLC12129624 , 1985
  • The miners’ strike 1984-85: loss without limit: OCLC21559940 , 1986
  • Rebirth of a Nation: an Anatomy of Russia OCLC38505522 , 1987

Latest work: What the media are doing to our politics OCLC56222637 , 2004


Current debate:

Financial Times:

Column name:

Remit/Info: Current affairs / Politics and the Media / TV criticism

Section: FT Weekend Magazine

Role: Commentator



Website: FT.Com / John Lloyd

Commissioning Editor:

Day published: Saturday

Regularity: Weekly

Column format:

Average length: 900 words

Articles: 2017

Articles: 2015

Articles: 2014

Articles: 2013

Articles: 2012

Articles: 2011

  • Why trendy Russians are new-age Bolsheviks - Angered students show their passion for a majority vote - 13th December
  • Farewell to arms - Andrew Feinstein’s crusade against in the weapons trade is documented in ‘The Shadow World’, which reveals ‘a world of deceit and death’ - 3rd December
  • Qatar calling - Its coverage of the Arab spring has turned Al Jazeera into a global media phenomenon. So why has its director-general now resigned - 5th November
  • Our onset of US-style gerrymandering is a terrible mistake - Lib Dem MPs survive by exploiting local issues. In a mishmash like Ludlow, Leominster & Moose Head, there will be none - 1st October
  • The antisocial network - Cybercrime can only become a bigger part of our lives but its perpetrators remain a little-understood tribe - 1st October
  • Why freedom of information might become information-free - The recent wave of transparency could lead to even greater secrecy - 24th September
  • A victim-messiah obeying the beat of his own drum - This is a document of a generation that claims the right of self-government but, in Julian Assange, has one who shows how lethal that would be - 23rd September
  • Tame raunchy tabloids and media hit men - We need a mentality in which journalists can say: there are some things I will not do - 17th September
  • Russia must forget its imperial aims - Dmitri Trenin’s work containing illuminating details argues that Moscow must modernise to avoid being marginalised - 15th August
  • The Pursuit of Happiness - Carol Graham argues for well-being science to be given the imprimatur of a method of measurement hard enough to stand with GDP - 30th July
  • Forza Italia! Only Latin alchemy can save the Union - Could Italy, an uncritical lover of the EU, be the assassin that slips the stiletto between its shoulder blades - 16th July
  • An inexorable flow to richer lands - One of the largest tasks before politicians is to win acceptance of a cosmopolitanism which, for very many, is threatening and distasteful - 10th July
  • Ed - Mehdi Hasan and James Macintyre deliver a careful, fluent and unhistrionic account of Miliband’s rise - 9th July
  • Murdoch broke Britain’s press. This is how we fix it - The A-List: It is time fix self-regulation of newspapers - 8th July
  • Mourning the end of the Fake Sheikh - This is not the time, to praise the News of the World. But it is worth a reflection that something of value has passed, along with much that is toxic - 8th July
  • Don’t look down - Concerns over social mobility in Britain extend across the political spectrum – and there are few answers on offer - 11th June
  • The virtues of a flawed character - No hero can appear on a British television set without his chain of sins, traumas and mistakes clanking behind him - 10th June
  • Hell hath no fury like a Geordie spurned - Simon Cowell is a king in the world of reality TV. With his record label, his show franchises and his chutzpah, he will probably weather the Cheryl Cole storm - 5th June
  • Resist the tyranny of the web and tabloids - John Lloyd on the bad champions of privacy - 24th May
  • Britain’s got political talent - TV has trained politicians to do soundbites. But its downside is the generation of a self-serving contempt for, and ignorance of, political mechanisms - 21st May
  • Sugar and spite and all things trite - For a seventh series, we will see young men and women of ambition and talent performing like lickspittle medieval squires before Alan Sugar in ‘The Apprentice’ - 14th May
  • Why we’re happy watching the detectives - BBC controller Danny Cohen has said that they were putting out too much crime. After seeing this week’s splurge of new crime series, John Lloyd understood his reasoning - 7th May
  • Prepare to be shocked - A legal challenge may be about to end the requirement for UK broadcasters to provide balanced news coverage, opening the airwaves to US-style polemicists - 30th April
  • This programme’s in a bad way, Doctor - BBC1’s ‘Dr Who’ has managed to pick out the most salient irritations of British culture, and has concentrated them into a narrative - 30th April
  • Fairy tales for straitened times - The magnificence of the ceremonies in BBC1’s ‘Britain’s Royal Weddings’ is a tribute to Britain’s native genius for theatre - 23rd April
  • Warm-hearted corn trumps comedy with a cold core - ‘Candy Cabs’, the story of a women’s cab company struggling in a seaside town, offers a fictionalised version of the virtual emancipations TV now loves to stage - 16th April
  • Turbulent ride on the drama roller coaster - There is no unifying theme to the BBC’s spring collection, except that women emerge as both more moral than men and more in charge - 9th April
  • Sir Humphrey’s caste still rules the roost - In ‘The Secret World of Whitehall’ documentary maker Michael Cockerell shows a world run by men educated at public school and Oxford who command and control - 2nd April
  • The winds of gradual change - Two programmes show that the countryside is more dangerous and wasteful than the city, and those who live there seem in the main to be a selfish lot - 26th March
  • Babble-gush as the Olympic clock ticks - Set among executives preparing for the 2012 games, a new BBC comedy turns the ‘Olympic Deliverance Commission’ into the subject of a fly-on-the-wall documentary - 19th March
  • A world of wonders and warnings - Two finely made documentaries manage to disturb – one describes the disappearance of the world, the other foretells the fall of western civilisation - 12th March
  • A dark detective tale sheds light - Danish writers produce a fable of relationships whose private strengths and weaknesses are inseparable from the duties and evasions of public lives - 5th March
  • New life in the Big Easy, old values in the Big Apple - In ‘Treme’, a bunch of New Orleanians try to reconstruct their lives after Hurricane Katrina, while New York-set ‘Blue Bloods’ shows policing as a caring family business - 26th February
  • Unexpected allies as the book nears its end - There is a flowering of televisual love for the book lately. It’s as if the medium is making affectionate cause with the aged children of Gutenberg - 19th February
  • Morality plays at the top of the bill - The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is also about the split within Jewry itself, which underlies a new TV series that moves between the mid-1940s and the present - 12th February
  • Intoxicating allure of prohibition - ‘Boardwalk Empire’ captures what’s become the mark of the new US TV drama: a sense of the epic, of a slice of life being formed or exposed to our gaze - 5th February
  • Politics and the media: Italy’s greatest promiscuity - Berlusconi’s Italy is a warning of what happens when media and politics do not live in separate spheres, says John Lloyd. Their union is poison to civil society - 3rd February
  • Light entertainment, heavy on the irony - When translated to the small screen, irony can be wearying – it renders limp what might be serious and lame what might be comic - 29th January
  • Precious crumbs from the big woman’s table - Piers Morgan, who succeeded Larry King at CNN’s premier interview slot, manages to get enough tears and rich, news-making tidbits from Oprah Winfrey to give him a start - 22nd January
  • The shock jocks at the gate - We too often presume the US “public square” style of partisan television cannot happen elsewhere – where a strong tradition of impartiality in broadcast journalism act as a bullwark - 16th January
  • Zen and the heart of modern relationships - A short series about cops and crime finely renders the world of Italian officialdom while TV dating shows reveal the role of sexual display in empowering women - 15th January
  • The new power of the press - Innovative yet increasingly aggressive forms of journalism are determined to hold politicians to account and seem intent on total transparency. But is this really in the public interest? - 8th January

Articles: 2010

Articles: 2009

  • The public gets what the public wants - John Lloyd on what he thinks about Simon Cowell’s plan for a new television show in which the political issues of the day would be voted on by You-the-Jury - 19th December
  • Pride, prejudice – and not a bonnet in sight - The adaptation of Andrea Levy’s ‘Small Island’ does much to tell why Britain’s part in the vast disrespect by whites for other races is a deep wound - 12th December
  • A battle that will not be won on Eton’s playing fields - The government is already an elite - 12th December
  • When beauty is in the eye of the collector - Programmes on art have produced two kinds of infuriation as young hopefuls struggle to explain their obscure material and a philosopher argues that great art has ceased to exist - 5th December
  • Acting natural, or not acting at all - BBC2’s ‘We Are Family’ showed how ordinary people live decently, against the odds - 28th November
  • The indiscreet charms of the BBC - John Lloyd finds escape on many levels with ‘Hi Society’, ‘Enid’, ‘Miranda’, ‘The Thick of It’, ‘Spooks’ and other offerings from the warming hearth of British television - 21st November
  • Tbilisi, a year after the war with Russia - John Lloyd visits Georgia to find a people united in their recognition of Moscow’s ‘hard power’ – but divided over their president’s response on South Ossetia - 21st November
  • When tragedy looms, send in the clowns - John Lloyd reviews three BBC comedy shows – ‘Miranda’, ‘The Thick of It’ and ‘Armstrong and Miller’ - 13th November
  • Man in the News: Mikhail Gorbachev - Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the role of the former Soviet leader, lauded as the man who ‘made this possible’, remains divisive - 14th November
  • All eyes on the legacy of Big Brother - The reality show of shows leaves Channel 4 after next year’s 11th series, but John Lloyd sees it as merely the end of the beginning for the genre - 7th November
  • And nation shall speak unto itself -Andrew Marr, the new master of the genre of the expression of Britishness, has taken up the white mid dle-aged man’s burden with huge gusto - 31st October
  • From soap in space to the most real TV of all - In drama, TV claims to portray a deeper-than-surface reality through fiction, while in documentary it selects scenes from life to illuminate a state of affairs - 24th October
  • Just what TV genres need – new blood - ‘True Blood’ is a monstrously fine and funny piece of work, cleverly commenting on contemporary anxieties, fads and follies while telling a story at the same time - 17th October
  • The appeal of ‘Spooks’ - As it returns for an eighth season later this year, John Lloyd explains why the British TV series about MI5 spies has such a huge fan base - 17th October
  • Truth, justice and the non-violent way - The painstaking exhumation of a grim murder unfolds in the five-part ‘Criminal Justice’ on BBC, while an over-tentative guide to the life of Gandhi promises dramatic revelations - 10th October
  • That’s the way it is ... or isn’t - Television is the most popular way to consume fiction and fact in a finely crafted stream, but distinguishing between the two, says John Lloyd, is not always easy - 3rd October
  • Europe’s centre-left suffers in the squeezed middle - It is not only the right that exults. The left, within these mainstream parties and outside, now sees a chance - 3rd October
  • It’s all gone dark on the small screen - Cruelty and horror increasingly fill the television as several programs dwell on sadism, charred corpses, body mutilations and Nazi hunts - 19th September
  • Fall of the Lehman empire - Two programmes mark the anniversary of the bank going bust – the first an exciting fiction, and the second a documentary that depicts the unmatched Dick Fuld - 12th September
  • Aspects of love, notes on fantasy - How to treat love was given ample space in last week’s television as love’s close kinship to fantasy was well explored - 5th September
  • When in Rome ... - Two works seek to explain why, in spite of Silvio Berlusconi’s anti-socialist policies and scandalous private life, the Italian prime minister remains a potent political force in his country - 5th September
  • Middle England at war and at play - The values, mores and behaviour of the English middle classes had two media outings this past week – one largely comic, the other almost tragic - 29th August
  • What’s wrong with a little redemption now and then? - ‘Total Wipeout’ is the settee equivalent of the Bacchanalia that is Britain’s Saturday night and is enjoyed most when one is totally wiped out or on the way to it - 23rd August
  • Democracy cannot wait for the ‘new generation’ - Everywhere, the political classes are unsure of their mandate. Yet they are called on to master the gravest of issues - 11th August
  • That big question, so many answers - BBC1’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ is dedicated to the view that you are your forebears: a view with which the participants in the series are content to go along - 8th August
  • A Tory toast to politics as entertainment - Silvio Berlusconi, for many Italians a real mensch, is the man who points most firmly to the future. A man of show business, he has injected its values deep into politics. He knows it works - 4th August
  • Experimental commissioning - BBC1’s new series on science ‘Bang Goes the Theory’ strikes a poignant note in John Lloyd, who still grieves for ‘Bonekickers’ - 1st August
  • Spies - A massively researched, telling book that features dozens of American men and women who were willing to live in tension and fear to spy for the KGB - 1st August
  • Fine fare for the common man - ‘Imagine’, the arts programme, is on the BBC’s mass viewing channel so that the common man will happen upon it - 25th July
  • The mobile society stalls at the gates of academe - The professions are now so routinely associated with university degrees that those without one find career and class bonds tighter than ever - 25th July
  • Virtue provides its own rewards - There was much improving drama about virtue the past week – improving both because it prompted reflection on virtue itself and because it demonstrated how, and how not, to portray virtue - 18th July
  • BBC comedy is no laughing matter - John Lloyd says it’s a serious matter when the financial and creative resources of BBC, the world’s greatest broadcaster, can’t raise a smile - 11th July
  • A man’s a man, for a’ that fraud and vanity - BBC1’s ‘Imagine’ is an affectionate portrait of David Hockney who has come back to the land of his birth to find new springs for his art - 4th July
  • Politicians must listen, learn and level with citizens - That democracy is in trouble is now the commonest of ideas among political scientists - 4th July
  • Angels and demons in a cardboard land - The best programme last week was BBC’s ‘China’s Capitalist Revolution’, a hugely well-crafted piece of vivid narration on the end of Maoism and the unique revolution unleashed by Deng Xiaoping - 27th June
  • Subtler than fiction: the testimony of the grieving - ‘The Fallen: Legacy of Iraq’ shows that some see Iraq as ‘Tony Blair’s war’ and some as a struggle against evil, by men who defined their job as doing just that - 20th June
  • Satire that gets beneath the uncomfortable skin - Rory Bremner perfectly mimicked Gordon Brown’s inhibited public projection, the mixture of massiveness and fragility, with hints of anger, insecurity and self-consciousness - 13th June
  • Britain’s got talent – but let’s leave it to the professionals - Susan Boyle was evidence of an age partly past, to a time when people who had real talent would roll it out periodically in small towns. But it takes a professional to last - 6th June
  • When rhyme is a reason to reach for well-known faces - Broadcasters believe they must rely on cerebral celebrities to woo viewers to learning, as the BBC has done in its latest poetry series - 30th May
  • Less daft presenting, more poetry, please - Among all the reading pleasures, poetry is the hardest won. John Lloyd hopes that the BBC’s programmes, which have both pearls and dross, will focus more on the thing itself - 23rd May
  • Art for everyone, not just insiders - ‘The South Bank Show’ – the most successful arts series in Britain, perhaps in the world, due to its straightforwardness and and Melvyn Bragg – is now doomed - 16th May
  • Outside Edge: Italy on the rocks or behind the wheel - Sergio Marchionne, the austere head of Fiat, and Silvio Berlusconi, the scandalously exuberant Italian premier, present conflicting visions of Italy’s future - 9th May
  • The illusions of those few marvellous years - ‘Endgame’, about the talks that preceded South African president de Klerk’s announcement that Mandela was to be freed, was told well and had finely pitched performances - 9th May
  • Voodoo Histories - In a tone alternating between the documentary and the mocking, a Times columnist presents his view on recent conspiracy theories and reminds John Lloyd how vital it is to arrive at the truth - 5th May
  • Why a story like Best’s has rarely been bettered - ‘Best: His Mother’s Son’ does what TV drama is best at: the minute examination of large issues -how these issues work out in small acts and how thoughtless choices build into a life’s tragedy - 2nd May
  • Fanfare for the common man - Framed with drama and tension, reality shows provide a conduit for the ordinary and the obscure to get to the top - 25th April
  • Europe’s left is failing to gain from the crisis - The revolution is not under way - 20th April
  • Soap watching, seriously ... - Criticism of elitist TV columns that laud minority programmes and ignore dramas forces John Lloyd to concede by viewing episodes of ‘EastEnders’ and ‘Desperate Housewives’ - 18th April
  • After ideology comes the age of innuendo - At a time when there are no deep divisions in policies, the character of leaders is more important than their programmes - 16th April
  • Bitter truths and cool epiphanies - German director Oliver Hirschbiegel has brought very fine performances from Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt in this past week’s biggest TV event, Five Minutes of Heaven - 11th April
  • Fantasy gets a reality check - A shift has taken place in British television. We are now presented with narratives with the patina of realism but the reality of imagination - 4th April
  • No easy way to put a face on the stay-at-home recession - Picture a couple, of working age, searching the TV channels at four in the afternoon: there’s desperation for you - 4th April
  • Matters of honour and a room of one’s own - The past week saw two documentaries – ‘Unreported World: Honour Killing’ and ‘Holloway’ – that, although unplanned in their contiguity, were firmly in the reformist camp, and illuminated each other - 28th March
  • Now we get what we deserve – inequality rage - Suddenly we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it from these bloated creeps any more - 28th March
  • Disrespecting you to the max - Comedian Stewart Lee rips into those who in most occasions despair – despair that celebrity culture is now privileging the raucous, the prejudiced and the self-righteous - 21st March
  • Why Britain is best when it comes to gossip - The complex British class structure seems to have prepared a small but profitable traditional trade, turning resentment to good use and good money - 14th March
  • McGuinness and Adams must snuff out burning embers - The men are caught in a contradiction – they want the Real IRA put away but cannot be seen to back interventionism - 14th March
  • The press and the party line - Though the transformation of China’s media falls far short of independence, journalists are making the most of the extra power that they have gained - 7th March
  • A vision so dark it’s unbelievable - Where ‘Red Riding’ is jumbled, allusive and sometimes incomprehensible, scenes in ‘Law and Order’ are neatly labelled, its events clear and its processes begin, continue and end - 7th March
  • Outside Edge: You can spy on us – but do it openly - If we trust the state enough to allow the ‘spooks’ to fish among our phone records, they should trade away some of the secrecy they love - 7th March
  • In the realm of sexed-up soap opera - ‘Moving Wallpaper’ – one of the funniest series now available – is better than ‘Free Agents’ because the sex is at the service of the comedy, rather than the root of it - 28th February
  • Outside Edge: We Brits have fine minds but don’t want to brag - we are a nation shy about cleverness - 28th February
  • I’m a celebrity, get my story out there - Celebrities are omnipresent – Ross Kemp has returned to Afghanistan, a cascade of celebs examine their pasts in ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’, and Billy Connolly wanders across the roof of the world - 21st February
  • How TV can win hearts and minds - ‘Mad Men’ and ‘Iran and the West’ are important for TV’s future. They can inspire discerning audiences to continue supporting the medium - 14th February
  • The growing culture of Petri TV - When television companies put humans in a controlled space and inspect what they produce, both followings and controversy are attracted - 8th February
  • Old men to worship or watch out for - ‘Mandela at 90’, which fawns our age’s moral touchstone, leads a list of programmes on seniors that John Lloyd suggests should be viewed with a sceptical eye but an open mind - 7th February
  • Where low humour meets high culture - The BBC’s offerings are pious and randy, elevating and low, testing and silly, writes John Lloyd. But if it is the last great institution that still unites the nation, why is it sometimes obscene and cruel? - 1st February
  • Dazzled by America’s new dawn - The UK coverage of Barack Obama’s inauguration highlights just how lean British broadcast news and current affairs have become - 25th January
  • God, Mammon and a spoonful of Sugar - BBC2’s ‘The City Uncovered’ improved on the high standard of ‘Ascent of Money’ in the clarity of its exposition of our current financial woe - 18th January
  • The ghosts of glasnost - In the 1990s, the Russian media and intelligentsia were often hostile to the assaults on Chechnya. John Lloyd finds that today’s Moscow seems to face fewer critics - 18th January
  • Outside Edge: Let the census inspire - The 1911 census has fuelled an interest in history - 17th January
  • A catalogue of horrors trivial and profound - British viewers were treated to three different horror fictions this week, including one that plays on the contemporary concern about damaged childhood - 10th January
  • Say what you like – but don’t ask me to pay - In the course of this coming year, the regulators and controllers of the media will try to define the parameters of public service broadcasting - 3rd January

Articles: 2008

  • Crowning glory of the festive schedules - The most magnificent programme this past Christmas week was tucked away on a minority channel, like one of Dickens’ waifs on a bitter London street - 27th December 2008
  • Finance and faith: What is it all for? - For people who seek refuge in spiritual values when material ones crash, the role of western religions as critic and cultivator of capitalism sharpens a dilemma - 23rd December 2008
  • Rubensesque, with biscuits and bugs - John Lloyd has been avoiding Nigella Lawson’s cooking shows, but the season of goodwill has prompted him to watch her Christmas programme with an open mind and an empty stomach - 20th December 2008
  • Prophets of doom turn up the volume - The British used to watched wars, revolutions, massacres, earthquakes and famines on television, often indifferently, in the comfort of their homes. John Lloyd writes how this has lately changed - 13th December 2008
  • Hollowed man who is a cop above the rest - Detectives in fiction are often portrayed as hollow, their private selves cauterised by work that is both distasteful and narcotic - 6th December 2008
  • How to survive the end of ‘Civilisation’ - John Lloyd longs for the 1969 series that was an oasis in a desert of Old Television and whose sheer cultural wealth one can’t beat - 29th Noveber 2008
  • Dark days and glittering prosperity - The fine, sickening ‘Panorama’ report by Alison Holt on Baby P, the infant who died after being tortured, leaves viewers helpless in a nationally shared rage - 22nd November 2008
  • Battle-scarred in the name of conscience - Through the televised obsequies on remembrance week, the message came through that the death toll of all wars has been a terrible waste - 15th November 2008
  • Man in the News: David Hare - The political playwright’s latest work, Gethsemane, taps new reservoirs of loathing for his long-time targets – the hypocrites of the left - 14th November 2008
  • We can be heroes... - In different ways, three authors show the transition of journalism from a period of heroism to the age of the internet – an entrepreneurial time when everyone is a journalist - 14th November 2008
  • Alarming bad taste broadcasts - Scandals are not just covered by television; they are television – an ironic tribute to the role the medium plays in people’s lives - 13th November 2008
  • Globalising Hatred - Is anti-Semitism capable of being fanned again into something broad-based and virulent? We must hope that question will never be answered - 10th November 2008
  • The art of saying nothing, meaningfully - When news sources have little to tell us that is new, the gaps are filled with comment and analysis painfully prolonged through a thousand interviews and reports - 8th November 2008
  • Obama through a foreign lens - The rest of the world had voted for Obama long before Tuesday. That widely publicised fact meant television channels round the world struggled to maintain balance - 6th November 2008
  • Class act by a character out of Dickens - There was a good television programme trying to get out of Prescott: The Class System and Me - 1st November 2008
  • Britain’s four nations - Douglas, Baron Hurd of Westwell, is unique among living politicians for having held three high government offices - 1st November 2008
  • Goggling and giggling: not the Bond way - This week past, I heard a talk by a former high security official, who cannot be identified. One of the audience, warning that her query would be cheesy, asked him (or her) what s/he thought about James Bond, and if secret service life was in any way related? - 25th October 2008
  • Uganda’s controversial pastors - On a summer Sunday morning, bright and windy, I went to the Miracle Centre Cathedral in Kampala - 24th October 2008
  • Blameless in Gaza, a drama for our time - A TV reconstruction of the shooting of a British citizen by an Israeli soldier is criticised as anti-semitic, but John Lloyd says it demonstrates the dramatic spirit of our time - 18th October 2008
  • The shadow of prison bars on TV screens - A television licence poster reminding viewers to support the BBC on pain of criminalisation looks authoritarian, but John Lloyd agrees that its programmes are worth the money - 11th October 2008
  • Lunch with the FT: Andrew Davies - The writer behind the TV series ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and other adaptations of classic novels finds relief in hiding behind other authors’ characters - 4th October 2008
  • The pride of John Bull’s first island - ‘John Adams’ prompts us to ask what makes us proud to be British, John Lloyd writes. The adaptations of the glories of English literature, perhaps? Or contemporary dramas of our broken society? - 4th October 2008
  • Flashbacks, family and a lot of fury - The week’s best programme was ‘Mona Lisa Curse’ where art critic Robert Hughes was given time to say why he thinks the market has replaced taste as the arbiter of contemporary art - 27th September 2008
  • Hollywood comes to Washington - A BBC1 series mirrors media attempts to convey the 2008 US presidential election, while BBC4, in keeping with its mission to explain, sought to assist with ‘President Hollywood’ - 20th September 2008
  • The Rushdie effect - The publication of the ‘Satanic Verses’ in 1988 sparked a fundamentalist backlash. Two decades later, John Lloyd examines how the episode changed the landscape of Muslim society in Britain - 13th September 2008
  • Climate wars, collectivism and clones - The BBC is democratic because its magnificence depends on the support of the people it seeks to serve and it is collectivist for it must organise huge collections of people with talent, skill and ability - 13th September 2008
  • Flights of fantasy and a real test of faith - Television now too infrequently uses the tools of investigation to reveal the texture and trends of our everyday lives - 6th September 2008
  • The Solomons who protect our privacy - I would worry about our vastly expanded surveillance only if we began electing governments that used it to usher in a version of the dystopias produced by the 20th century - 19th August 2008
  • Something serious for the silly season - A programme about a team of archaeologists on a quest for Excalibur exposes inner truths and trends about contemporary drama on British TV - 16th August 2008
  • Disquieting holiday reading for politicos - The preconditions for a globally organised terrorism are in place: the weapons are potentially available - 12th August 2008
  • Car bombs, lies and videotape - Anyone who begins his claim for two hours of your attention (Car Bomb, C4, Sunday and July 27) by telling you governments were lying to us when they said nuclear weapons were the real threat, loses my sympathy early - 9th August 2008
  • In an online world, the party is over - Politicians must have audiences. As audiences mobilised by parties age and dwindle, new ones appear on the internet - 5th August 2008
  • So this is what postmodern looks like - Television does history in the postmodern manner – whatever turns you on, or stops you turning off. More properly, postmodern history was defined by Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm (in his On History) as seeing “one construct ... as valid as any other, whether it can be backed by logic and evidence or not”. He contrasted this with a history, which seeks to establish “the distinction between what is, and what is not, so” - 2nd August 2008
  • It was the Americans wot done it - Hollywood was once wont to cast upper-class Brits as villains, to remind us that we were, or had recently been, class-ridden, snobbish imperialists. Now the BBC has cast Americans as villains, to remind us that they are the imperialists now, and capitalists and despoilers of the planet to boot - 26th July 2008
  • International law on trial - In the autumn of 1991, a Serbian politician named Vojislav Seselj arrived in the city of Vukovar, on the Croatian side of the River Danube. Serbian militias were attacking Vukovar, intent on expanding the borders of their state. Under Yugoslavia’s communist regime, Seselj (pronounced “Sheshel”) had been imprisoned for his nationalist views. Now, as the Yugoslav Federation split and ethnic nationalism became the guiding principle of politics, he had become a hero. He’d come to Vukovar, then being “cleansed” of Croats, to raise morale among the Serbs, to make speeches and to enrol members in what would come to be called the Serb Radical party, which he would come to lead - 25th July 2008
  • Glasgow East will put tartan ties to the test - The big figures from – but no longer in – Scottish politics sit, usually in London, watching the coming clash of civilisations in Glasgow East. This is overstated, but only somewhat: Labour’s desperate effort to hold the constituency against the Scottish Nationalists is a clash of different conceptions of British civil society, one that has gone on for nearly half a century - 21st July 2008
  • The baffling power of faith and fantasy - Star programme of the week was The Qur’an (Channel 4, Monday). Scrupulous, sympathetic and patiently didactic, it did the task for which Channel 4 was conceived: to enlighten through narrative. Its director, Antony Thomas, had nearly 30 years ago made Death of a Princess, a programme based on the beheading of a Saudi princess and her adulterous lover, which, when broadcast by an ITV company in 1980, caused cancelled contracts and threats of retribution from the Saudi rulers and has never been re-broadcast - 19th July 2008
  • True cross found, plot hopelessly lost - Bad television drama is more revealing of a society than good TV drama. Good TV has talent, which plays by its own rules. Bad TV tries to plug itself into some perception of the social zeitgeist, shoring up flimsiness by sucking meaning out of existing narratives - 12th July 2008
  • When criminal justice meets artistic licence - Cherie Blair this week joined the growing list of Labour women – Harriet Harman, deputy party leader, Kevlar-waistcoated in her south London constituency; Jacqui Smith, home secretary, feeling unsafe on south London streets – to dramatise the re-emergence of the knife into London’s fearful mind, 120 years after Jack the Ripper began his cut-throat prowls among the prostitutes of Whitechapel - 5th July 2008
  • Parallel worlds in space and Stamford Hill - The interviewee, mockery in her voice, asks the observant Jew: where should I put my cup of tea, which has milk in it? Is on the floor OK? Yes, says the OJ, I don’t eat off the floor. Can I put it on the table? Yes, it’s OK now, because it has a milk tablecloth on it. And if it had a meat tablecloth? Rather you didn’t - 28th June 2008
  • Window on different worlds - Only television of the most rigorous kind – that, for example, which brings you a lecture or a performance – can avoid showmanship. Most TV is showmanship, and every attempt to bring us documentary or fiction must, by the nature of the medium, tell us as much about the show and its creators as about its subject - 21st June 2008
  • Where no woman has gone before - Two outstanding women politicians were given television profiles this week. One of these programmes (A Woman among Warlords, More 4, Tuesday) was as close as the medium can come to fact: the other (Margaret Thatcher: The Road to Finchley, BBC4, Thursday) was deep into the swamps of faction - 14th June 2008
  • When culture shows God’s departure - The most moving episode in the bio-prog on Florence Nightingale (BBC1, Sunday) was when her father confronted her, as she tortured herself on her failures in the Crimea, and disputed with her on the nature of God - 7th June 2008
  • A cringing act of contrition from the BBC - The BBC (it can be exclusively revealed) has a Contrition Unit, which offers apologies for past sins against the Great God Licence Payer. This past week, the Unit produced a programme about Mary Whitehouse (Filth, BBC2, Wednesday) – and fell on its face - 31st May 2008
  • Aristocrats in sickness and in health - Two aristocrats were on screen this week: the real one was a plain Mr, and the false, a Duchess. Neither was great: aristocrats are not what they were, eh, Darcy? But we must take what we get, and the false one’s performance was the more amiable - 24th May 2008
  • No cheers for democracy - Stealthily, our view of the world has changed. We no longer see Russia, and above all China, as powers-to-be: we have come to see them as powers-that-are, and the thought is a fearful one. Will they see the world, as they have done throughout their histories, as a zero-sum universe in which, if the sun rises in the east, it sets – should set – in the west? - 19th May 2008
  • Murdoch’s plea at the pearly gates - When the last trump sounds for Rupert Murdoch, and a weighing of his sins of omission and commission is made before St Peter, heavy on the scales that counterbalance these will be The Simpsons, pleading trumpet-tongued against his descent to a media-free Hell - 12th May 2008
  • Britain behaving badly - When some 50 ladies of Liverpool hired a coach to London to witness the wedding of Diana and Charles on June 29 1981, they had a couple of brandies each before setting off, “to settle our nerves” - 2nd May 2008
  • Officers and not such gentle men - We are well served for cop series in the UK, and well served by the UK for cop series: some half-dozen home-produced, well-crafted police dramas are offered every week, the largest section in the “drama” category. They also vary greatly: we have both quantity and choice - 28th April 2008
  • So how much power do the commentators really wield? - In an exclusive extract from their forthcoming report, Julia Hobsbawm and John Lloyd talk to columnists and MPs about how much the stars of the opinion pages influence British life - The Observer, 27th April 2008 (with Julia Hobsbawm)
  • The bling thing, the good thing - One of the past knights of this Financial Times roundtable was Robert Peston, who a decade and a half ago slew the giant (ego) Jacques Attali, revealing in these pink pages that the latter had spent more than £60m on redecorating the offices of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, of which he was the first head. Spending £60m on redecoration is what a fund manager does these days when s/he moves house, but that was then, and spending £1,000 on a chair got a "Good Heavens, the cad!" not a "duh?" - 5th April 2008
  • The power and the mystery - The Anglican Bishop of Birmingham and his clergy were out in the city this Easter time, offering to shine the shoes of passers-by for nothing. It is not known what those who shine shoes for a living in Birmingham thought of this: the bishop, following the example of his Master's insouciance towards the income of Galilean vineyard owners while performing his water-into-wine miracle, did not go into that. He said, instead, that these free shoe-shines were the modern equivalent of the Lord's washing his disciples' feet - 22nd March 2008
  • Don't mention Saddam - In a series of short (10-minute) films, dramatic haikus to mark the five-year anniversary of the preparations for the March 2003 invasion of Iraq (BBC2, Monday-Friday), the BBC has again shown the narcissism of small imaginations - 15th March 2008
  • Everyday stories of prejudice - A cultural current is running, which impels the creative people among us to question the nature of prejudice. One outcome has been the BBC's "White Season", now on BBC2 (see last week's Life & Arts section), in which working-class attitudes, mainly on race and immigration, are given non-censorious, even sympathetic, treatment - 8th March 2008
  • White men unburdened - A cultural movement is happening within liberal opinion. It no longer greets immigrants with open arms. They are welcome – but with tighter conditions, aimed at encouraging, even mandating, integration. The old, cross-party order that strove to see immigration “not as a flattening process of assimilation but as equal opportunity, accompanied by cultural diversity, in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance” – in the words of the late Roy Jenkins, a Labour home secretary in the mid-1960s – has been diluted - 29th February 2008
  • Paranoia with plenty of polish - This column lends a sympathetic ear to Mohamed Al-Fayed. For his accusation, to the tribunal on the death of Princess Diana, that the secret services are running Britain, he deserves our understanding, not our mockery. He is a foreigner, trying to integrate rather than be stuck in one of those multicultural ghettos now so much deplored. He thinks paranoia is a necessary adjunct to being British. He has been watching the BBC - 23rd February 2008
  • Through the eyes of the believer - This week past has not been one in which we in Britain could forget the counter-claims of religion and the secular state. A spate of comment - in which the Archbishop of Canterbury was much criticised for meddling in matters of religion - gave crushing victory to the secular state. If comforting, it left open the question that the religious commentator Clifford Longley plaintively put to the columnist Polly Toynbee ( The Moral Maze , BBC Radio 4, Wednesday) - what, in a secular state, is the test of morality? - 16th February 2008
  • Flat Earth News - Flat Earth News’s claim to importance is that it puts flesh on the bones of two trends often invoked, but never so powerfully expressed. One, that public relations, the craft of making news for the benefit of a client, is now entirely pervasive in constructing the world of the media. And second, that the present power of PR stems in large part from the enfeebled nature of the British news media, particularly newspapers at local, regional and national levels (book review) - 16th February 2008
  • The Age of Television - Television, and the popular drama which accounts for so many hours of its nightly output, is our way of making sense of life. Like the 19th-century novel, from which such dramas are derived, television series are an antidote to the grim fact of death. In secular societies deprived of the consolation that life (if properly lived) is but a preparation for a more glorious eternity, we have grasped at narrative – overwhelmingly, now, TV narrative – to give us some peace from the dread thought of finity (book review) - 9th February 2008
  • Turning Back The Clock - The title of this book tells us Umberto Eco’s current concerns. They are: that we are leafing backwards through history’s pages; that wars are hot, bad and largely America’s fault; and that a populism which accords with the laws of television has descended on Italy – and may fall upon us all. In the first, he is unconvincing. In the second, he is frequently silly. In the last he is brilliant (book review) - 2nd February 2008
  • The wisdom of the soaps - Coronation Street and EastEnders, great rivals for the nation’s attention, were head to head, this week past, on grief. Coronation Street (ITV1, Monday) showed Jack Duckworth, a regular for nearly 30 years, come to terms with the death of his wife, Vera: after decades of a brawling, mutually unfaithful and scandalous marriage, he summons a speech of great dignity at the crematorium - 2nd February 2008
  • Viewing that gives us moor - We are blessed with great television: it may indeed be, as we like to boast, the best in the world, at least in giving accounts of that world. A TV culture that can bring, in one week, two (documentary) films of such diverse brilliance as Dispatches: The Court of Ken (C4, Monday, 8.00pm) and Wonderland: The Man who eats Badgers (BBC2, Wednesday, 9.50pm), is in good health, both civically and creatively: one might say, morally - 26th January 2008
  • The real face of show business - In the past week, the New Hampshire recovery of Hillary Clinton from her defeat to Barack Obama in the Iowa primaries (television news, all channels, all week) has been credited to her showing her "human" side. Michael Crowley, in the New Republic, wrote that her "flashes of angry and teary frustration" worked wonders with media parched of the "real" woman - especially those increasingly powerful parts of the media such as the Drudge Report and YouTube, most of which had given her a hard time - 19th january 2008
  • Sex and sensibility - "Let me see your knickers," says a lawyer to his fellow worker, in return for finishing her work. She - who is, he knows, wearing a sexy ensemble of basque, suspenders and stockings beneath her office clothes - takes the deal, lifts her dress, lets him look for five seconds, then leaves early - 12th January 2008
  • A world without redemption - The fifth and last series of a show called The Wire begins tomorrow on the HBO subscription channel in the US; it will air, later, in the UK on the FX channel. Those who do not know the show should make a 2008 resolution to watch it: it has garnered extraordinary critical acclaim - 5th January 2008

  • Notes from a small country - In Israel last month I attended a ceremony held to honour the political commentator Nahum Barnea, who writes a column in the daily Yedioth Ahronoth, said to be read like the runes by the Israeli political class and beyond. It was a fine ceremony, in Tel Aviv University’s new School of Communication, and it was made finer by the intervention, through video, of CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and the New York Times’s Thomas Friedman. The presence of these two journalist superstars reminded you that a nation of some 7 million counts for a lot if it is a main - the main - protagonist in the Middle East conflict. The major political commentators of Denmark or the Netherlands are not going to get that kind of treatment - 21st April 2007 (final article from 'The Ideas Department' column)

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