Every face-to-face Deliberative Poll (DP) to date has been the subject of a television broadcast. We consider these broadcasts a helpful adjunct to the design – a way of motivating both the random sample and the policy experts and policy makers to attend, of educating the broader public about the issues, and, perhaps, of nudging public opinion in the direction of the results. In ‘Rickety Bridges’, John Parkinson examines just one of these broadcasts, Channel 4's on the DP on the future of Britain's National Health Service (NHS) in 1998. Applying his coding of the contents to other DP broadcasts might or might not yield similar results, but we are happy to assume, for argument's sake, that it would. If DP broadcasts are generally doing what he describes the NHS DP broadcast as doing, they are doing pretty well, at least as far as the distribution of coverage is concerned. It is Parkinson's notion of what they should be doing that is mistaken. As a result, his critique is fundamentally misguided.
THE AIMS OF DP BROADCASTS
Parkinson's critique rests on an inappropriate standard. His central claim is that Channel 4's broadcast of the NHS DP did not replicate the participants' experience. Of course it did not. No broadcast could ever give viewers the same experience they would have if they were actually part of the DP's on-site, weekend-long deliberations. The broadcast in that case would have to be weekend-long, and there would actually have to be multiple broadcasts – as many as there are participants – since every participant's experience is different.