Wednesday, December 12, 2007

When questions of morality make you feel a bit guilty....

"The Morality Panel" is the somewhat high-fallutin' title of a little bit of honorary media tarting which I have now done three times at BBC Radio Berkshire. The charming Nicki Whiteman hosts. I have been hosted by her many times over the years, when I used to do a paper review/Internet spot on her breakfast show. She is such an experienced and intuitive presenter that you lose track of which bits are on air and which bits are off-air chat - it all merges into one seamless stream of consciousness.

I am getting used to being the "token male" on these panels. I see one of my roles as coming up with a better name for the panel. I did think of "Muddlin' through", to be accompanied by a "plonking" Duane Eddy guitar tune. Nicki seems to prefer my latest idea which is "It's a grey world".

It is not until you are confronted by a slew of moral dillemmas (we usually get about nine chucked at us, including a couple of "Daily Mail" specials) that you realise how grey and flexible morals are. It all makes one feel rather "dirty" and inadequate.

We had a number of Christmas ones. Should you recycle Christmas presents? Yes, said I and the panel - except, as I pointed out, be extremely careful not to give back a present to someone who gave it to you last year.

Is someone morally obliged to tell their child (who enjoys Christmas) the meaning of Christmas even if that person (the parent) is not a Christian? This involved an interesting discussion with one of the panellists, who is a Hindu, making a particularly interesting contribution. I found myself saying "I don't think any parent has the moral duty to tell their child anything" and then regretted it afterwards. I sounded like a complete nilhilist. Maybe that's not a bad thing. Goodness knows!

Anyway, the meat of the panel session was about whether we should "dob in" people - i.e tell tales - using three examples:

1. Someone who works for cash
I wouldn't work for cash myself, and I don't think I ever have done. I did say that I wouldn't "dob in" someone who worked for cash. It's difficult enough to get plumbers or boiler engineers and it seems to be looking a gift horse in the mouth if you question them about payment methods. It's their look-out.

2. Someone who pays council tax for a single dwelling but has a son or daughter living with them
I am not entirely sure that you would ever know this, but if I did I might "dob in" this person - not sure. The other two panellists were strongly "dob in" on this one.

3. Someone who has nine points on their driving licence and gets a relative with a clean licence to say they were driving their car (when they weren't) to avoid the final three points.
I think this person would get the strong edge of my tongue, but I wouldn't dob them in, mainly because I think it would be wasting police time with no evidence - it's your word against theirs. The rest of the panel tended to agree on that one.

Not a particularly satisfying discussion this week, though as usual it was a delight to visit the splendid environs of the BBC Monitoring Centre at Caversham (below), which houses BBC Radio Berkshire. It's an amazing place. First you have the wonderful grounds, then you have the vast cosmopolitan hive of activity inside. There is a wonderful multi-screen in the lounge which shows all manner of live TV channels from across the world - it's extraordinary.

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