Coronation Street Monday 16thJuly. I watched it on catch up – excited to hear that, finally, mediation is being featured in a mainstream soap, giving a wider audience the opportunity to see its real value. Cup of tea and biscuit in hand, I sat down to watch ITVs most popular soap – but was immediately disappointed, as the station’s announcer told us that Johnny and Eva were going to ‘meditation’to sort out issues with a child… and it didn’t get much better! What did the programme get right? – Not much!
The mediation was between Eva, the baby’s mother, and Johnny, its grandfather. Sadly, the baby’s father, and Johnny’s son, Aiden, had committed suicide earlier in the series. There were complexities about Eva’s intentions and behaviour. Nothing is simple in soap world, but a real mediation session could have helped such a couple find a solution to their issues. Here are some comments from a straw-poll of viewers I spoke to:
“Everyone was talking at once.” The Coronation Street characters gave no indication that they understood, or were willing to talk about, what was good for the baby. Eva and Johnny both wanted to show what a bad person the other one was. The mediator let both people use the meeting to throw accusations at the other person. She started the meeting with “what is your position?”, which is a legal statement used when talking about conflict, not when building an agreement about arrangements for the child at the centre of the discussion. The mediator didn’t manage the meeting at all or give any indication that she was in charge of the mediation process. Mediation is a structured meeting.
“Johnny had a real go at Eva.“ Both Eva and Johnny talked exclusively about the past bad behaviour of the other person. They talked about custody – an old-fashioned term that some people still use to talk about where the child will live. A professional mediator would not use that terminology. Mediation is focused on the future and does not focus on how either person has behaved. The mediator can give information but not advice.
“Johnny was in charge.” Coronation Street’smediator let Johnny dominate the meeting, putting Eva in a very difficult position. The language throughout was accusatory and inflammatory and the mediator did nothing about it. In mediation the mediator is neutral – if you feel they are taking sides tell the mediator.
As I’m sure you can tell, I wasn’t very impressed with this episode – in fact I was shouting at the TV and my step-son asked “Are all mediators as pathetic as that woman?”. It portrayed mediators in a poor light – which was simply not realistic. I’m not sure who the programme advisers are, but they are definitely not mediators! Mediation is a good option for people who don’t want to go to court and are looking for a less acrimonious, more civilised solution to their issues – which is not what was shown here. This was a lost opportunity to let people know the real worth of mediation and as far as I can see will just put people off coming!
Author: Juliette Dalrymple