If I ruled the world: Jon Sopel

3 min read

If I ruled the world: Jon Sopel
Jon Sopel has presented for the BBC for 16 years and became their North American Editor in 2014. Here are the laws he would enact if he ruled the world

People would listen to each other and be challenged by views that are not their own.

In the UK, news broadcasters have to adhere to certain rules of impartiality but in the US there are no such obligations. This means the media is politically slanted, leading to an intolerance of other people’s views dependent on what media broadcast they watch or listen to. Being open to a plurality of opinions is vital for open-minded discussions and democracy.

Children would all learn a foreign language.

I thought it was a terrible decision by the Labour government in 2002 to make it optional for children over the age of 14 to study a second language. Now three quarters of UK residents are unable to hold a conversation in any language except English. It seems very complacent—and limiting—to assume that everyone will speak our language.

I’d encourage greater day-to-day civility.

On my walk to work in Washington DC people on the street say good morning to each other. When people get in a taxi they always say hello to the driver before giving their requested destination. That doesn’t happen in the UK very much anymore and I think it’s a real shame.
I love the sense of community in the US; people know their neighbours and look out for them. A little bit more civility and courtesy around the globe would make the world rock along in a more pleasant way.

I’d put strict regulations on what can be posted on social media.

Social media is broadcasting and the platforms from which it is delivered must be fully accountable for the content that goes out.

Money would not be the driving force behind the US elections.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent during American elections. If you become a Congressman your main job is to start fundraising for the next election. Of course that’s very compromising because you have to do all sorts of deals with those organisations with the most money—often in the pockets of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
A small state governor election can see more money being spent than the cost of the whole UK general election. Limits need to be put on these amounts.

We’d be more attuned to our surroundings.

I really hate it when people are busy talking on their phones in a shop and don’t acknowledge the existence of the cashier helping them.
Also, why does everyone seem to want to shut out the noise around them by walking down the street with headphones on? And don’t get me started on littering…
Let’s take time to engage in friendly discourse with each other, and be more in the moment and aware of our surroundings.

We’d have more appreciation for our armed forces.

We can rant and rail at the politicians who send our soldiers to war but we must never blame the soldiers. People who serve their country deserve respect.
It’s grotesque to think that soldiers who served in Iraq or Afghanistan have been spat on by members of the public. Many of us had parents or grandparents who served in the two World Wars and, although we’re now living through a period of relative peace, we do so thanks to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us.

I’d change the US gun laws.

The statistics are staggering but the Second Amendment, which states that it is “the right of people to bear arms” seems sacred to Americans.
The young people involved in the Florida school shooting in February, who saw their friends gunned down, have stood up and are championing for change. After all, while most people in Congress have fired an AR-15 rifle at one time or another, none of them have been on the receiving end. But these kids have. They’re not intimidated by the NRA or politicians on Capitol Hill and that’s exciting.
Jon Sopel’s book If Only They Didn’t Speak English: Notes from Trump’s America, is out now, published by BBC Books