Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Slow news - or no news?

I was pottering around town on Good Friday, as you do, when a reporter with 'BBC' sewn on her jacket and a discrete microphone asked if I had a few minutes. There was no camera, and I had a couple of minutes - so, what the hell!

Interviewer: Can you name the social classes?
Me: A, B, C1, C2, D - is there an E?
Interviewer: Oh, most people just say working class, middle class ...
Me: Maybe they don't have a degree in Social Administration. [Oh heck, that sounds patronising.] It was a long time ago.
Interviewer: So what social class would you say you are?
Me: Why does it matter?
Interviewer: Well, if someone wanted to, say, sell you something; then they might want to know.
Me: What has class got to do with whether I need something or not?
Interviewer: (Sighs. I am clearly not giving the right answers) Did you know that they are increasing the number to 7?
Me: No.
Interviewer: They are including things other than income, and house-ownership. For instance, what do you do in your spare time?
Me: Read.
Interviewer: That's not on the list.
Me [Knowing she needs me to be more helpful]: I like going to the theatre.
Interviewer (Smiles, at last): So that put's you higher up the scale.
Me: What do you mean, higher? Are you saying that, just because I enjoy the theatre that that is somehow more valuable, more significant, than someone who plays bridge, or goes to bingo? Surely we're all just people choosing how we spend our leisure time?

At this point the Interviewer turned the microphone off, and thanked me. I asked her what it was all about, and she told me it was a slow news day and the BBC decided to go out and ask random people these fatuous questions. (Well, she didn't use the word fatuous - but I did.)

I've no idea if this was ever broadcast (I doubt it). There was a big spread on the BBC website yesterday about the 'New British Class Survey', but I wasn't sufficiently interested to plough through it. But it did make me think. I understand there are slow news days, and the BBC has to fill the time with something other than silence - but surely old recordings of The Navy Lark or Beyond Our Ken are more interesting than that?

And - I know there are social differences that we lump together under the category of 'class' but how helpful is it to foster these by asking ridiculous questions? Would there not be more merit in inviting passers-by to reflect on what we have in common (a need to love, to be loved and cherished) than things that underline our divisions?


  1. Ha ha ha! Saw the News item, wondered why it was important...didn't see your specific interview though...Hmmmm
    We tried the online class calculator and turned out to be New Affluent Worker Class...that made us laugh, we have no affluence whatsoever! We watched another report the other day and found that we were actually financially among the most poverty stricken, so who's right? It seems that if you like cultural things and own your own home you must be higher up the class ladder, regardless of your actual income or outgoings!
    There've been a few non-news stories on the News lately...

  2. You do make me smile, Jo. I'm quite sure you weren't intending to be deliberately obstructive, but what can you do when faced with questions like that. Fatuous happens to be one of my favourite words - I love the way it rolls off the tongue, but I don't get to use it too often these days (I don't watch the Beeb..haha). Still, I think it fits perfectly in this instance. Who is this supposed to be helping anyway? Sounds like just another way of keeping someone in a futile job (while we're on strong 'f' words :-))

  3. I heard them saying something about this on Daybreak this morning.As you said it was about questionaires and if you like art or theatre it put you in a higher class because you're mixing with the hoi poloi. Lot of nonsense as if we care what class we're in we're just trying to survive at the moment.Good for you for your answers I'm like that whaen I get cold callers on the phone or at the front door.

  4. If I were that interviewer I'd have found your answers refreshing and entertaining!

  5. Thank you all for your support - at least I made you smile (if not the interviewer, Karen - though I don't envy her the job, having to ask people thing stuff!)

  6. Yay! Go Jo! Go Jo! You put her in her place. When you threw your Degree at her I laughed out loud. Well done. We're all just us, aren't we. Yes, some people have different ways of spending their money but there shouldn't be any clear cut divisions.

  7. I give up!!! Honestly. Does it matter? I recall my immigrant Jewish mother (I guess now you'd have to put the word 'illegal' in front of that, even tho' she wasn't) being besotted with class - always said we were upper middle class, because we had a detached house and I went to a fee-paying school. Honestly, it ruined my childhood - I could only be friends with similarly classed children...she made that quite clear...Load of bollocks, the whole thing. Just another reason for this dreadful government to create disunity.

  8. What an interesting post! I loved your answers.

  9. Carolyn Caldwell6 April 2013 at 07:48

    Sounds like the BBC might be employing too many people... this sounds like what one of my former social work colleagues used to call 'MakeWork'. Of course it's true that marketing often relies heavily on stereotyping people into groups / classes (would person x buy a Dyson or a Henry Hoover; a 55" TV or a 23" one; Estee Lauder or Boots cosmetics, etc etc.) - but as you say it would be good if the BBC were interested in how we can make our diversity something to celebrate and how everyone can contribute their best, rather than trying to stuff people into boxes. OK I'll get off my soapbox now! love Cxxxxx