MPW Students Debate with BBC Editor
MPW Cambridge students were delighted to attend an annual lecture at Magic Circle’s Headquarters in London, accompanied by Inga Morrissey (Director of Studies) and Jamil Rashid (Student Council Facilitator). Hosted by the Council for Independent Education (CIFE), the keynote speaker was Martin Webber, current editor of the BBC’s ‘The World Business Report’.
Martin Webber’s background at the BBC for the past 30 years was preceded by a degree at Oxford University, where he studied Philosophy Politics and Economics (PPE). Martin was also a member of the Oxford Union’s Debates newspaper and radio editor where he rubbed shoulders with such luminaries as David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson. His CIFE presentation was based on ‘Economics and the Environment’ with a close focus and reflections on the interconnectedness of economics and the environment in general, with specific regard to the media.
Within the first few minutes the audience was fully engaged with statements such as “how can we report truth if it is difficult to know?”, “look at all media sources, believe none” and “journalists are only human”. Martin covered in great depth a few very interesting topics in his presentation. The 2008 financial crash was one of our favourites. This is where Lehmann brothers, Northern Rock, HBOS, Lloyds, and people like Andy Hornby and Fred Goodwin were mentioned. Martin talked about the BBC’s lack of usage of words like ‘bailout’ to show whether they were impartial and neutral or not in a democratic society. This fits into the syllabus for A level Edexcel Economics, the macro part of the course (units three and four) and the International Foundation Programme (IFP) Sociology course with the mass media and social media topics. Another good example was the discussion on the international worldwide problem of global greenhouse gas and CO2 carbon footprint emissions. Martin referenced the ‘green new deal’ from the USA and Canada and Greta Thunberg and the extinction rebellion demonstrations in London recently. The BBC’s reporting of this issue was seen in a critical light by Martin. Yet the good news came from wind power and solar power which the Paris Climate Change Conference had highlighted. Economists among us enjoyed a discussion on the monthly gross domestic product statistics with a reference to Naomi Klein’s radio interview with the BBC. Lastly, it was wonderful to hear some news stories from UK Transport and UK Electricity policy areas. This related well to the global politics component of the Edexcel A Level Politics syllabus.
Students were then allowed to raise and ask their own questions which Martin addressed in great depth. Two of our MPW IFP students asked some very perceptive and probing questions, which showed their inquisitiveness and was indicative of the overall maturity of MPW students.
Natalia, for example, enquired about the fake news phenomenon and ‘the Trump question’. The answer was essentially that we are living in unprecedented times of fake news and the rise of populism. David, our second student, asked about the Hong Kong situation with the student protests against the Beijing government, and the pro and anti-biases within the media. Martin did reply that the BBC China base is in Hong Kong and they have seen the protests at close quarters, which means that they were seen as being biased against the Chinese government and taking the side of the student protestors. This has then raised tensions between the UK and the Chinese government over our former colony, Hong Kong. David’s second question was whether cyclically the world economy is due for another financial crash now. Martin’s answer was suitably nuanced to suggest that anything is still possible but would be dependent on Trump’s protectionism and China’s rise to global economic precedence.
The CIFE event continues to both meet and exceed expectations. Our students returned to Cambridge full of exciting new ideas upon which to further contemplate and debate. It was an enriching experience both from an academic and personal development perspective which we were delighted to be able to share with our students.