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David Keighley

BBC BIAS DIGEST 21 OCTOBER 2020

BBC CHAIRMAN: ‘GREAT MAJORITY OF OUR OUTPUT IS VERY GOOD’: Anita Singh (£ Telegraph 21/10), reporting a speech by BBC chairman Sir David Clementi to the Voice of the Listener and Viewer organisation,  said he had asserted that the corporation ‘took seriously’ that over-50s thought the BBC was biased to the left while young people tended to believe it was too right-wing and part of the establishment.  Ms Singh added that he had also observed that for the ‘great majority of our output we are very good’ but impartiality was new director general Tim Davie’s priority number one ‘and we are doubling down on impartiality’.  She said he had also hit back at politicians who criticised the BBC and claimed that many of them  – apart from BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and BBC2’s Newsnight – did not spend much time with corporation output. He had also hit back at those who wanted the BBC to become a subscription service because their argument was ‘largely ideological’ and they did not realise what would be lost in terms of the educational and informational services.

James Bickerton (Express 21/10), also reporting Sir David’s speech, said he had asserted:

‘Around 27 million people in the UK came to the BBC website to find out about the election results (in December 2019). It was a reminder of the trust people place in the BBC. But the fact criticism came from all sides of the political divide shows to me that we were doing our job without fear or favour.’

BBC ‘SACRIFICES QUALITY FOR EQUALITY’: Milly Vincent (Daily Mail 21/10) said that former England cricket team captain and BBC cricket correspondent Sir Geoffrey Boycott had accused the BBC of ‘sacrificing quality for equality and of holding its presenters to a standard of political correctness which meant they were ‘frightened of saying anything’. Ms Vincent, noting that Sir Geoffrey had left the BBC in June and had been replaced by Isa Guha, a former England women’s cricketer, along with the recently retired cricketers Sir Alastair Cook and James Anderson,  said that Sir Geoffrey was also said to have claimed that at the BBC everything was now about ‘gender and race’  and that the corporation was not run particularly well.

BBC ‘TERRIFIES ELDERLY’: Katie Weston (Daily Mail 21/10) reported that the BBC had been accused of ‘terrifying the elderly’ – who in July lost the right to have free BBC licences – by sending out letters ‘emblazoned with capital letters’  threatening fines  of £1,000 if they did not pay their £157.50 annual fee. Ms Weston also noted that the letter wrongly implied that licence fee collectors had the right of entry to homes in their investigations about non-payment.  She reported that the BBC had claimed that the letters had not been sent out to the elderly.

BBC BIAS DIGEST 20 OCTOBER 2020

 

POLL: 98% SAY BBC BREXIT COVERAGE FAVOURED EU: Steven Brown (Express 20/10) said that a poll conducted by his newspaper into attitudes about the BBC’s coverage of Brexit had found that 98% (of 19,285 responses) believed that the Corporation ‘did side with the EU’ in its Brexit reporting. He explained that the conducting of the poll had been prompted by a tweet from former Labour MP  Baroness Hoey which said that when the history of the Brexit period was written, the corporation would be shown to have ‘totally sided with the fear-mongering EU’.

‘ASTONISHING’ BBC ADMISSION ABOUT PRINCESS DI SCOOP:  Victoria Ward (£ Telegraph 20/10), discussing the ‘bombshell’ interview Princess Diana gave to Martin Bashir of the BBC 25 years ago, reported that the BBC press office had said that a ‘physical copy’ of a handwritten note from the princess exonerating Mr Bashir of claims that he had pressured her by using false documents to agree to the interview no longer existed. Ms Ward added that, despite this, the corporation insisted that the existence of the note was documented in BBC internal records and had been seen at the time by BBC management.    She said that Andrew Morton, who had written biographies of Princess Diana, had described – in a Channel 4 documentary about the interview due to be broadcast on October 21 – the BBC’s admission about the note as ‘astonishing’.

Kate Jackson (Sun 12/10) said that in the Channel 4 documentary about the Princess Diana interview, Patrick Jephson, the princess’s former private secretary, would claim that the BBC had exploited Princess Diana, and that ‘making her perform  (in that way) had been ‘a combination of seduction and betrayal’.   Ms Jackson also reported that Andrew Morton would claim that the princess – living in a world of anxiety about being ‘bumped off’ and possible surveillance – had been ‘very cleverly’ played upon by Martin Bashir.

BBC BIAS DIGEST 19 OCTOBER 2020

‘WOKE’ BBC ‘SHOULD BE DEFUNDED’, SAYS BURCHILL’: Julie Burchill (£ Telegraph 18/10) argued that as ‘a circuit-break to the gloom and doom ahead’, the government – in order to win back support – should embark on a ‘brisk defunding of the BBC’.  She opined:

‘I’m sure that most of us could get behind putting a rocket under all those self-righteous metropolitans who work for it and treating them to a trick they’ll never forget. How odd to think that the BBC was once one of the main things that kept the nation’s morale up – during the Second World War, especially. I dread to think how they’d react these days; no doubt we’d be instructed not to mindlessly rally round the flag against Germany in a jingoistic way – especially considering the racism of Churchill, in contrast with Hitler’s vegetarianism.’

Ms Burchill added that when Charles Moore, former editor of the Daily Telegraph, had been mooted as a possible candidate to become chairman of the BBC, ‘you could smell the fear and the fury of the Woke across the capital’,  and that they should not be kept on the run. She asserted:

‘They’ll never reform themselves and to believe they will would be as foolish as expecting the best from the EU, another corrupted monolith with which they have so much in common; the endless entitlement, the fake enlightenment, the ceaseless spending of other people’s money.’

Ms Burchill concluded:

‘And now more than ever, as our country stands on the brink of a social sundering far greater than anything we have experienced since the civil war – north against south, pro-lockdown against anti-lockdown, British country against British country in a crumbling union – we don’t need yet another state-sponsored snowflake telling us how racist we are. Step forward Countryfile presenter Ellie Harrison, who has announced that the countryside itself is racist: ‘In asking whether the countryside is racist, then yes it is; but asking if it’s more racist than anywhere else – maybe, maybe not.’ Institutions outlive their usefulness and at that point they change or they perish. ‘Nation shall speak peace to nation’ (the BBC motto) and ‘United in diversity’ (the EU motto) are amusingly interchangeable – and they are wearing thin, despite the oceans of money employed to paper over the cracks. We don’t know where we’ll be this time next year, so do put the boot in, Boris – give us some savage amusement till this nightmare before Christmas is over.’

 

BBC NEWSREADERS’PAID FAR TOO MUCH’: Sophie Barnes reported that Martin Bell, a former BBC foreign correspondent (£ Telegraph 18/10), had claimed that BBC newsreaders – earning up to £465,000 a year in the case of Huw Edwards, who presented the News at Ten on BBC1 – were paid far too much for ‘mostly reading words off an autocue’.  She added that Mr Bell, who had left the BBC in 1995 to stand as an ‘anti-corruption’ MP, had said he had earned £60,000 and had never asked for a pay rise.

 

 

BBC BIAS DIGEST 18 OCTOBER 2020

DIMBLEBY AND GIBB ‘NOT ELIGIBLE’ TO BECOME BBC CHAIRMAN: Edward Malnick (£ Telegraph 18/10), reported  that the job advertisement for the new chairman of the BBC stipulated that candidates must be independent of the BBC, and not employed by the corporation in the past five years, and he suggested that this would mean former BBC1 Question Time presenter David Dimbleby and former BBC head of political programmes Sir Robbie Gibb – both of whom had declared an interest in the role – would fall at the first hurdle if they applied for the post.

 

OFCOM LAUNCHES COMPETITION INQUIRY INTO BBC SOUNDS: Brian McGleenon (Express 17/10) reported that media regulator Ofcom had announced an investigation into the impact on the market of BBC Sounds, a corporation platform which allowed users to listen to BBC radio stations and a selection of other stations live and on-demand.  He said that the move followed the raising of concerns by commercial radio industry organisation RadioCentre and the all-party parliamentary group for commercial radio. He added that Ofcom had stated:

‘. . . there have been a number of incremental changes to BBC Sounds, and some stakeholders in the commercial radio sector have concerns about its development. The audio and radio sector is undergoing a period of rapid change due to the evolution of streaming services, including the entry of global players such as Spotify and Apple Music.

‘Audience expectations are also changing; increasingly they want to listen to the content of their choice, when and where they want to, and there is a tendency for younger audiences, in particular, to listen online.

‘The BBC has responded to these audience changes and competition by developing and expanding BBC Sounds. Given the incremental changes that the BBC has made to BBC Sounds, we consider that now is the appropriate time to take stock of the market position of BBC Sounds and assess whether there are any issues that need to be addressed, via regulatory action or other means. We are therefore seeking evidence from stakeholders about the impact of BBC Sounds on the market.’

BBC BIAS DIGEST 17 OCTOBER 2020

‘GEORGE OSBORNE ‘COULD APPLY TO BECOME BBC CHAIRMAN: Christopher Hope (£ Telegraph 17/10) reported that the post of BBC Chairman had been formally advertised with a closing date for applications of November 11, and that the government had increased the salary for the part time role from £100,000 to £160,000 a year for a three to four day working week. He speculated that those being urged to apply now included the former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, who had resigned from his role after the EU referendum in 2016, and now reputedly held several jobs, including as a fund manager at BlackRock, for which he was said to earn £650,000 a year for one day’s work a week.

 

BBC BIAS DIGEST 13 OCTOBER 2020

UPHELD BBC COMPLAINANT ‘IN SHOCK’: Charles Moore (£ Telegraph 13/10, second column item) outlined how a correspondent was ‘in shock’ after a complaint she had submitted directly to director general Tim Davie – bypassing the usual complaints procedure – had been upheld in fewer than three weeks. Mr Moore said the woman had complained that BBC Parliament’s coverage of the Internal Market Bill (linked to Brexit) was usually free of running commentary by analysts, but on this occasion , the ‘information captions’ running below the live feed of the parliamentary proceedings had been devoted to ‘a series of condemnations of the man introducing the Bill’, the prime minister. He added:

 

‘This is what the BBC complaints team – not Mr Davie in person, but presumably acting on his orders – replied:

“We didn’t live up to our usual standards. The accumulation of detailed quotes condemning the Government’s plans… gave the impression that we were only interested in criticisms of the Bill. The proper purpose of the information captions on screen is to give supporting information to enable the viewer to understand the legal processes involved in legislation, as well as key information relating to the content of the debate… Where political comments are quoted from, these should be deployed on screen specifically where those comments are referred to by the Member speaking. We didn’t do this in this case and we understand your annoyance and apologise.”

‘I would be grateful to hear from other readers who may have had a satisfactory answer from the BBC. It is a genre with which I am not familiar.’

BBC BIAS DIGEST 12 OCTOBER 2020

NEW BBC CHAIRMAN ‘SHOULD NOT BE TROJAN HORSE’: Television presenter and former Conservative MP Gyles Brandreth (£ Telegraph 12/10) asserted that he agreed with former BBC presenter David Dimbleby that the new chairman of the BBC should be someone ‘who believes in the BBC’  and not someone who ‘would bring the broadcaster to heel’.  He said:

‘Appointing a chairman with a view to that chairman undermining the very organisation they are supposed to lead isn’t on. The BBC employs 22,000 people, and twice as many freelancers (like me), and in my experience these are good people – talented, committed, and for the most part not that generously paid – and they deserve to be led by someone who respects, understands and values what they are doing, and can help them to do it even better.

‘You can’t have a general who doesn’t believe in the army or a conductor who despises music, can you? The BBC needs a chairman who will be its champion, not a Trojan Horse sent to reinvent it on the sly.’

By contrast, former Circuit Judge Peter Birts QC, in a letter to the Telegraph (£ 12/10), wrote:

‘If David Dimbleby thinks it’s the BBC’s job to be “a thorn in the side of government” (report, October 10), he has already disqualified himself from the chairmanship by reason of a total misreading of the BBC Charter, the Framework Agreement and the Ofcom Broadcasting Code, all of which require the corporation to commit itself to “achieving due impartiality in all its output”. (See also section 4 of the BBC’s editorial guidelines.) If this misunderstanding has been widespread among other senior figures, it explains a great deal.’

 

BBC BIAS DIGEST DIGEST 11 OCTOBER 2020

BBC ‘PUSHES  RE-IMAGINED FAIRY TALES’ TO AVOID ‘BAD MESSAGES’: Kurt Zendulka (Breitbart 11/10) said that the BBC was promoting  a series of ‘woke’ versions of fairy tales by former BBC Blue Peter presenter  Konnie Huq, who had been inspired to write them by her battles to win pay parity with men. Mr Zendulka reported that in Ms Huq’s book Fearless Fairy Tales, Sleeping Beauty had become ‘Sleeping Brainy’  while ‘Gretel and Hansel’ saw the former resenting the fact her twin brother was paid more for the same sweet-shop labour.

GOVERNMENT ‘COULD PRIVATISE CHANNEL 4’:  Ben Woods (£ Telegraph 11/10) suggested that ‘ministers’ were considering whether Channel 4 – currently state-owned – should be privatised and also whether ITV and Channel 5’s public service obligations should be scrapped. Mr Woods noted that media minister John Whittingdale had earlier in the week questioned whether Channel 4 – which had been forced during the pandemic to cuts its production budget by £150m and find £95m in savings – had a viable future in its current form. Mr Woods added that ITV and Channel 5 were both lobbying about public service obligations because they entailed higher costs and attracted smaller audiences than game shows and drama.

BBC STARS ‘PAID MORE THAN DISCLOSED’:  Chris Hastings (Mail on Sunday 11/10) claimed that many of the BBC’s biggest stars were becoming resentful that the true earnings of some of their colleagues were not being disclosed because they received large percentages of their pay from BBC Studios, which kept such figures out of the public domain. Mr Hastings instanced Fiona Bruce, who he said enjoyed a disclosed income of £450,000 from her roles in news presenting and as host of BBC1 Question Time, but was actually thought to earn more than £1 million a year through additional programmes such as The Antiques Roadshow, which was made by BBC Studios. He added that the BBC had responded that the BBC Charter did not require it to disclose pay from BBC Studios.

 

BBC BIAS DIGEST 10 OCTOBER 2020

BBC ‘TO HIRE PR CHIEF TO PLUG LICENCE FEE’: Bill McLoughlin (Express 10/10) said that the BBC had ‘launched a desperate last-ditch attempt to save its own licence fee’ by advertising for a public affairs chief to act as a bridge between the corporation and parliament and devise a new public affairs strategy. Mr McLoughlin, claiming that the new post holder would earn almost £300,000 a year, said the new PR boss would report directly to director general Tim Davie with the goal of persuading MPs of the ‘importance of a reasonable and sustainable licence fee’.

BBC FACES ‘BACKLASH’ OVER ‘OFFENSIVE’ PODCASTS: Paul Revoir (Mail 10/10) reported that the BBC was facing ‘a backlash’ for using licence fee payers’ money to ‘fund lewd and puerile podcasts’ in which much of the content was ‘too offensive to describe’ which were available via the BBC Sounds platform and aimed at young audiences. Mr Revoir said the Conservative MP Peter Bone was among those who had criticised the podcasts, which included ‘foul language, an entire episode dedicated to defecation, sexually explicit descriptions,  graphic discussions of people wetting themselves, details of sexually explicit social media messages and crass conversations about the prime minister’s genitals’.   He added that the BBC had responded by claiming that the creation of content that was relevant to young listeners was part of the BBC’s public service remit and rightly contained podcasts which ‘discuss relationships and explore real-life issues’.

 

DAVID DIMBLEBY ‘TO SAVE BBC FROM MALIGN CHAIRMAN’: David Churchill (Mail 10/10) claimed that the veteran broadcaster David Dimbleby was considering applying for the chairmanship of the BBC, allegedly to counter the ‘malign’ impact that the appointment of a figure such as Charles Moore, the former editor of the Daily Telegraph, would have on the corporation. Mr Churchill said that Mr Dimbleby – citing Mr Moore’s views on gay marriage and race – said that someone with ‘a more open mind’ was required.  He had also said:

‘I still might [apply], depending on who comes forward. Boris Johnson, we know, wants to bring the BBC to heel. We don’t want a chairman who connives in that ambition.’

Pressed on why he opposed Lord Moore, he had said: ‘I was horrified…not because of his political views, but because he hates the BBC.’

He had added: ‘No politicians have ever liked the BBC, the BBC is a thorn in the side of government and that’s its job and therefore it’s always disliked by governments.

‘So when it was announced, and I gather absolutely it was his intention that Johnson was going to put Charles Moore in, at that point… I was going to put my name forward to be chairman.’

BBC BIAS DIGEST 9 OCTOBER 2020

‘ONLY 50.9% OF BBC EMPLOYEES ATTENDED STATE COMPREHENSIVES’: Anita Singh (£ Telegraph 9/10), reporting BBC director general Tim Davie’s speech at an Ofcom conference about a lack of ‘diversity’ in BBC staff, said that data from the corporation’s equality information report had found that 22.7% of employees in the news division had attended independent or fee-paying schools, compared to around 6% in the population as a whole. The report also found that 15% of BBC staff hired in the past year had been educated at private schools, and that overall, only 50.9% of BBC staff had attended state comprehensives. Ms Singh also reported that Mr Davie had told the conference he wanted more diverse voices.