Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Tea on Today

Perhaps because Central & Eastern Europe is a relatively obscure topic, I often find myself asked to comment on events by different television channels. It is an interesting contrast. For example, Bloomberg television is very high-tech, CNN far less so, while BBC Television is positively spartan, not even having a "green room" where one can wait before being interviewed. Over the past few days the events in Dubai have caused the global markets to examine the finances of Greece and Hungary. As a result I have been called by several media outlets. Yesterday I did the early morning slot for BBC TV news. This morning I was called in to talk to the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4.

"Today" does have a green room, and given that it is radio, one can take notes into the studio- as a couple of fellow guests did. The green room even has breakfast, including yogurt and toast- a distinct improvement on the simple dab of make up powder that television provided yesterday. It was obvious which of the two media has the better budget: clearly radio. More importantly, the response to events from radio was much more immediate: running orders were changing and new guests were being organised even as the programme was on air. The more cumbersome television shows are much slower to respond to events than the immediacy of radio allows.

As I nursed my first cup of tea of the day, I was quizzed by Adam Shaw on the subject of how the crisis in Dubai might pan out for other countries, in particular Greece. The interrogation was sharper than I usually get on television, and one got the impression that the radio programme was more on top of its brief. I am usually discouraged from using business expressions - even simple ones like basis point or yield- with Today, my impression was that such simplification was not part of their brief. It was, frankly, a relief. Although I listen to the programme regularly, going live to the studio one notices much more strongly some verbal ticks in the programme: in particular how the presenters end each segment by thanking the contributor- it is polite, but it is not in accord with the rather abrasive image of the programme. One also noticed the long gaps where each presenter is not contributing: Justin Webb barely spoke while I was in the studio, while Sarah Montague was even able to leave the studio. So, the power of each voice is rationed quite sparingly.

Even still, it is next to impossible to explain complicated issues in less than two minutes. Although Adam Shaw understood that the situation is perhaps more a function of journalistic speculation rather than market fundamentals, the key point was to underline that countries outside the Eurozone- including the United Kingdom- are more exposed to the gyrations of the global markets even than Greece is. So, perhaps the only point that I could make was that if you are not scared about the position of Britain, then you probably do not understand the mathematics of the situation. Perhaps at 6.20 in the morning it was the best that I could manage.

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