…not on Google, says Tim Sebastian

Tim Sebastian, noted journalist, renowned for his Hard Talk interview series and Doha Debates on BBC, is anchoring a new debating show in India. Called ‘Outsider”, the programme will be aired on Bloomberg UTV in mid-August.

The structure of the debate will be loosely based on the Oxford Union debate. There will be a controversial subject and a motion – two people who will speak for it and two who will speak against it.

Sebastian says that the show will provide young people a platform to hold politicians and thought leaders to account. It will enable them to ask questions based on fact and to get used to having a say in the democratic process. He says, “We work with audiences. We want them to shine. I am extremely impressed with the level of homework done by the audience.”

There is a poll at the beginning and again at the end of the debate. Asked as to what extent a shift in opinion happens as a result of the debate, Sebastian said, “I can tell you we have had one debate here so far and the shift that happened was nearly 9 per cent. That’s sizeable, much higher than recorded in the Mid-East. That shows people are listening, with an open mind, and willing to change their mind. What more can you ask for in a debate?”

Explaining the psychology and group dynamics at play behind these debates, he says, “There has to be a reason why people move in groups for thousands of years. Even today with all the technological possibilities available they still congregate in one particular place. The dynamic is different. Yes, you could send everybody a JPEG file and they could watch it on their screen. But it is not the same thing.

“The most interesting things in life are not available on Google. They are in your head. And how you extract it from people’s head – whether groups or congregations or people sitting across the table – that’s the challenge. It is the human contact and it is always different.”

vageesh@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on July 25, 2012)
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