Annual Debate with Stirling University

Thu 23rd March 2017 at 18.00 - 22.30

Annual Debate with Stirling University

ANNUAL DEBATE

Battle was joined on Thursday, though it was intellectual rather than physical, when the University of Stirling Debating Society met the Bridge of Allan and Dunblane Rotary Club for the annual debate.  The collective wits were sharpened to address two propositions, the first of which was:

 “This House believes that all forms of media should be regulated by a single, independent regulator.”

Chaired by Michael Craig from the University, the focus of discussion was on the ability of a single regulator to regulate the various forms of media.  For the proposers it was strongly argued that failure to have regulation left the way open to all forms of abuse.  People need protection by regulation. This must be independent of political and media influence, and sufficiently powerful to ensure compliance.  For the opposition, however, the practicalities of overseeing multi-national as well as personal media would be overwhelming: far too much for a single regulator. The fundamental principle of protecting freedom of speech must also be recognised. Regulation is already present in, for example, the form of Ofcom and the Press regulating body.  The necessary follow-up to these is to ensure that organisations such as Google became more fully self-regulating.

Following an opportunity for the audience to participate, it was clear that the proposition was not succeeding in winning its point of view.  In the event, when put to a vote, it lost by a significant margin.

The second proposition was intended to be more humourous:

 “This House believes the last people who should run the government are politicians.”

The proposers argued that politicians are too engrossed in party political squabbles to govern effectively.  Too many politicians are out of touch with the realities of life. The government should be in the hands of the professional civil service.  Failing that, the second proposer argued that computers, being unbiased, should set policies.  The third proposer (from America) argued that in her county a dog had been elected as mayor without any noticeable deterioration in governance.  The opposition, recognizing the enormity of its task, set out to rubbish the three suggestions made by the proposers.  Focusing on the suggested use of computers, they cited the problems in 2001 A Space Odyssey where the computer (Hal) had taken its decision to run the spaceship to the detriment of the crew.  What, they asked would it be like if computers governed a country?  The proposal to give responsibility to a dog was quickly rubbished, with a number of inputs from the floor making punning interventions.  In the end, it was argued, we should rely on good old, broadly reliable, humans.

Put to the vote, the outcome was only narrowly in favour of the motion.

President Nick Rawlings thanked all the participants for a very entertaining evening.  The joint debate was now an established part of the Rotary and University Debating Society’s programme.