Welcome to the moral maze

by Sachin

This blog draws its inspiration from “Moral Maze”, a long-running programme on BBC Radio 4, which demands listening. Here, I offer a summary of the programme and its merits.

Each week, Michael Buerk and a panel of interrogators from across the political and social spectrum quiz a series of witnesses on a particular issue which has been in the news. Contradictions are teased out; worrying moral perspectives are intimated; occasionally, members of the panel may be swayed by the answers they receive from witnesses, who always have a vested interest in the issue. So, for instance, an episode focussing on Iran’s nuclear ambitions1 featured a dissident Iranian academic, the chief of a defence policy-oriented think-tank, and a professor who specialises in the ethics of war.

“Moral Maze” on a good day represents the pinnacle of broadcasting: it allows rational attitudes to rise to the surface, whilst showing up the polarised viewpoints that otherwise shimmy through society. Moreover, though the listener is likely to align with one of the panellists, interesting points are frequently raised by others. I’m an ardent fan of Claire Fox (@Fox_Claire), but that doesn’t preclude me from taking on new ways of thinking from Matthew Taylor (@RSAMatthew), Kenan Malik (@KenanMalik), or even Clifford Longley. Such are the two chief benefits of the format.

1 Buerk, M. (2012), “Iran and nuclear weapons“, in Moral Maze, 7 March, BBC Radio 4.