Trevor Phillips earned the rare honor of becoming both a national treasure and a sort of provocateur in the UK
Over the past four decades, he has turned to writing, broadcasting, documentary making, politics and even retail (he spent four years as chairman of the “partnership board” of the British department store John Lewis), among other public service activities.
Not that you know it by talking to him. “I’m very lazy,” says Phillips with self-mockery, given his list of accomplishments (in 1999 he was appointed OBE by Queen Elizabeth II for his broadcast journalism services). “I don’t particularly like being on TV. It takes a lot to get me out of my house these days.
Despite this, starting Monday, Phillips will appear on Sky viewers’ televisions not once but twice a week: on weekends, featuring “Trevor Phillips on Sunday” (where he covers Sky political correspondent Sophie Ridge for that she’s on maternity leave), then hosting a new news show called “The Great Debate” on Monday.
“The Great Debate” will see Phillips moderate a panel of “ordinary” people (although he doesn’t like the term, “because the heck is ordinary?”) Lady ‘in front of their names or’ MP ‘ [Member of Parliament] after their names “- while they discuss the hottest topics of the week.” If I had one ambition for the show, it was to get people to talk to their partner or their children or to their parents from what they read in the newspapers that morning, ”he said.
Oddly enough, Phillips turns to “Gogglebox” – the Channel 4 series in which ordinary people are filmed as they watch some of the UK’s most popular TV shows – rather than, say, “Question Time” as a source. inspiration. “I think everyone on factual television has a lesson to learn from the success of ‘Gogglebox’,” he says. “Where in fact a show that should never have worked in a million years has worked spectacularly because we are getting to know [the participants] as characters, and we get to understand why they have the opinions they have based on their background and experience, etc. In a way, I think we want to try to replicate that here.
Phillips has always been a curious figure in British public life. He speaks passionately about both racism and what he has described as race hypersensitivity; he chaired the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission from 2007 to 2012 and has directed documentaries with titles such as “Has Political Correctness Gone Mad? His views inevitably annoyed people on the right and left of the political divide. “The story of my life,” he says. “There is always someone who is willing to call me a bad name because I don’t agree with them.”
Yet Phillips’ “unorthodox” views are precisely what makes him uniquely positioned to host “The Great Debate,” which seems to offer an antidote to the political polarization so prevalent today. “I think the one thing I want to emphasize is that people speak out forcefully. But then when they do that, they listen to other people and they answer them honestly, ”Phillips said of his plans for the show.
“They might not change their mind. But what is not allowed is to simply respond to others by yelling at them and telling them that they are stupid or ignorant. Let’s be frank, part of the way people do these things these days is to say “You can’t say what you just said, because you’re racist or transphobic” or whatever. We’re not going to have any of that.
However, in light of current concerns that people with no expertise are as important as those with decades of know-how (the vaccine discussion is one example), Phillips is worried about ‘host a program that deliberately pits laymen against eminent personalities in their fields? “This is not a crazy show,” said Phillips firmly. “This is not a show in which we’re going to explore ridiculous conspiracy theories.”
“But what we’re going to do is have two rules. One is [that] no subject is forbidden. And second, whatever we’re talking about, we want to be evidence-based. And that doesn’t mean you have to have written an important scientific article, but it could mean that you can tell us about your real experience.
By what he means the lived experience, rather than reading something on Instagram or Twitter “à la Nicki Minaj and what Trinidadians call the” flat tire of the groom “”, he adds mischievously, referring to the rapper’s recent (disputed) claim that the COVID-19 vaccine can cause erectile dysfunction.
Given his moderate views, it’s no surprise that Phillips appears to be one of the few people in UK broadcasting who doesn’t seem to revel in the chaos emerging from rival GB News. “I think there is a certain snobbery towards GB News,” says Phillips, who admits to being friends with his recently deceased presenter Andrew Neil. “It’s not my resort, but I think the competition it offers is incredibly important. Because it should make us better and more responsive to all of our audience. “
Phillips, however, is vehement in his condemnation of UK public service broadcasters, especially for their lack of diversity. In 2016 he called BBC 2 Britain’s “whitest television station” and, of Channel 4’s recent “Black to Front” initiative, relates Variety that “People shouldn’t be distracted by gadgets. For example, having an all-black programming day. Fine. OK. But in fact, who is really responsible?
In particular, Phillips points out that it was Sky who ultimately raised him (along with Sophy Ridge) via their Sunday morning political show to a “seat of authority” previously occupied only by white men like Andrew Marr, Robert Peston. and, of course, Andrew Daniel. “The [PSBs] all talk about a good game, ”he said. “But which of these broadcasters really put a woman or a person of color in a seat of authority? “
While “Trevor Phillips on Sunday” is for “people who really care about politics” (“Let’s be frank, your average person doesn’t get up at 8:30 am on Sunday morning to watch politics,” he says) , “The Great Debate”, which starts Monday at 9 p.m. GMT, is aimed at a wider audience. And despite bringing up serious topics, he intends it to be entertaining.
“I think the worst thing in public life is to take yourself too seriously,” says Phillips. “No one in this country likes someone who thinks that every word that comes out of their lips makes the world tremble. Because if you’re that kind of person, frankly, you’re never invited to a party.
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