Author Archives

David Keighley

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.

 

 

BBC BIAS DIGEST 8 OCTOBER 2020

KELVIN MACKENZIE ‘APPLIES FOR BBC CHAIR ROLE’: Guido Fawkes (7/10) claimed that the Department of Digital, Media Culture and Sport had confirmed that former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie had applied for the post of chairman of the BBC, and ‘in the interests of transparency’, that he had released a video which showed the ‘injustice’ involved in his exit from his role as Sun editor.

BBC RECRUITMENT ‘TO BE MORE DIVERSE’: Melanie Kaidan (Express 8/10) reported  that BBC director general Tim Davie, in pursuit of greater ‘diversity’ among corporation staff, had told an Ofcom conference that, in future, fewer recruits would be accepted from private schools and Oxbridge. Ms Kaidan said he had told the online audience that the BBC would no longer take people from ‘a certain academic track’ and would base restructuring on finding ‘different types of people and different voices’ from across the UK. He had said:

“I get a sense in our research that there are certain people who don’t connect with us. ‘Is the BBC for me?’ That’s about being out of London, it’s about programming choices, who speaks for us, who we put up in the newsroom. All those things need modernising to represent what is a more diverse Britain.”

BBC BIAS DIGEST 7 OCTOBER 2020

BBC ‘NOT REFLECTING WHITE WORKING CLASS’: Anita Singh (£ Telegraph 6/10) reported that June Sarpong, the BBC director of creative diversity, had told an Ofcom conference that the BBC had failed to connect with ‘white working class’ audiences and must do more to make them feel represented. Ms Singh noted that in her speech Ms Sarpong had claimed that she was the only black person on the BBC executive committee and that ‘there was nothing new in that’.  She had also asserted that the corporation still did not connect with BAME audiences, and that the BBC’s survival depended on its diversity, ‘as that is what young audiences demand’.

BBC BIAS DIGEST 5 OCTOBER 2020

SIR ROBBIE GIBB ‘FAVOURITE TO BECOME BBC CHAIRMAN’: Christopher Hope (£ Telegraph 5/10) claimed that former BBC news executive and Downing Street communications chief Sir Robbie Gibb had emerged as a ‘surprise frontrunner’ to become the new chairman of the BBC.  Mr Hope said that others now in the frame included Sir Peter Bazalgette, currently the chairman of ITV, and Trevor Phillips, a former chairman of the equalities commission.  Mr Hope added that Sir Robbie, who had recently been advising GB News, the new news service to be fronted by Andrew Neil, was seen as a reformer and a potential ally of the new BBC director general Tim Davie, who had promised to deliver reforms.

BBC BIAS DIGEST 4 OCTOBER 2020

MOORE ‘NOT APPLYING’ TO BECOME BBC CHAIRMAN: Ryan Fahey (Mail online 3/10) claimed that former Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore, who had been thought to be the leading contender to become the next chairman of the BBC was said to have decided not to apply for the role ‘for personal reasons’.

 

BBC ‘SECURED PRINCESS DIANA SCOOP  UNDER FALSE PRETENCES’: Craig Byers (Is the BBC Biased? 4/10) reported that the Sunday Times had claimed that the BBC’s Martin Bashir – who had secured in 1995 a ‘bombshell’ interview with Princess Diana in which she had said there were ‘three of us’ in her marriage to Prince Charles – had secured the scoop by allegedly misleading her brother, the Earl Spencer.  Mr Byers said the article had also claimed the allegations would raise difficult questions for the BBC as it had conducted an internal investigation at the time and cleared itself of any wrongdoing.

 

DAME JENNI MURRAY ATTACKS ‘SUFFOCATING’ AUNTIE: Jessica Carpani (Telegraph 3/10) reported that Dame Jenni Murray, who had stood down as presenter of BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour programme after 30 years, had launched a ‘scathing attack’ on her former employers for banning her from presenting items on the 2019 general election or about transgender issues because of her allegedly biased opinions.

Writing in the Daily Mail (2/10), Dame Jenni – emphasising that she had fought the many inequalities she perceived existed against women throughout her time in the role  – explained that on transgender issues, she had ‘merely asked the trans activities to acknowledge the difference between sex and gender’ and had been ‘shocked’ by the BBC’s response which had been to ban her from chairing any discussions on the trans question or the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act. Dame Jenni, who suggested she had been stopped from political reporting for stating that she supported the UK staying in the EU, and found the embrace of the BBC as ‘sometimes suffocating’, said:

‘It’s an interesting word, impartiality. For years, until recently, I and other broadcast journalists have written articles and books. In my case they were often controversial ones on marriage, abortion, pornography or bringing up boys, and I suffered no comeback from the BBC. At one point I was actually encouraged by a channel controller to write a regular column as a way of widening awareness of Woman’s Hour and Radio 4.

‘Impartiality was perceived as what a presenter demonstrated in the studio. It was not assumed that the radio or television audience expected the men and women who entered their homes on a daily basis to be dull ciphers with no opinions or personalities. I defy anyone to know which political party I have voted for, or what I think about the current moves towards Brexit, or the way the coronavirus crisis has been handled — because, on air, I have been impartial, exactly as I should have been. I do hope the new Director- General, Tim Davie, will bear this in mind and have no fear of a seemingly unfriendly government or the Twitter mob bringing down his greatest broadcasters.’

Dame Jenni also attacked the pay of female presenters at the BBC who earned more than she had. In the Telegraph article, Ms Carpani said the BBC had responded to Dame Jenni’s observations by saying the corporation wished her well in her new role as a columnist, ‘but the public will understand  the importance of impartiality while working at the BBC’.

BBC BIAS DIGEST 2 OCTOBER 2020

 

BBC ‘DOUBLES BORROWING LIMIT’: Rachel Russell (Express 2/10), in the context of director general Tim Davie’s appearance before the Commons Digital Media and Sport committee earlier in the week,  noted that the BBC’s annual report  showed that the corporation had ‘demanded’ permission from the government to borrow an an extra £1 billion (doubling the current limit of £1 billion) in order to pay for changes in to the international accounting standard in lease laws. Ms Russell said the extra spending capacity had been criticised by the Defund the BBC campaign, which had pointed out the BBC was paying huge salaries to star presenters while at the same time withdrawing free licence fees for the over-75s.

BBC BIAS DIGEST 30 SEPTEMBER 2020

BBC ‘EMPLOYED ME BECAUSE OF THE COLOUR OF MY SKIN’: Ramsha Khan (£ Telegraph 30/9), in a personal opinion piece, explained that after undergoing work experience at the BBC in Manchester and London, she now believed – ‘as a woman of Asian heritage’ – she had been ‘invited into the gilded palace of political correctness because of the colour of my skin, not because of my insights. If I had been white, I doubt I would ever have been parked in front of a microphone’. Ms Khan described how she had noticed something was ‘off’ when she had been invited to appear in a programme on BBC Radio Manchester. She said:

‘I naively presumed I was invited because they believed I would have something insightful to add. It was a blow when a producer on the show, seeing me, casually said “Oh, we’ve hit the diversity quota today”. The panel consisted of five of us, all ethnic minorities. At that instant it seemed as if I had been invited purely based on my ethnicity. I felt as if I was being defined by my race and cultural background, rather than as a person.

‘From there, it was a short hop to feeling as if I was expected to have “correct” opinions on certain issues. The fact that I might not view the world through socially progressive biases – that, as a conservative-leaning person I might support Brexit, for example – seemed not to have occurred to them.’

Ms Khan concluded that because of the BBC’s  approach to ‘diversity’, the time was right to defund it.

BBC BIAS DIGEST 29 SEPTEMBER 2020

BBC STAFF EXPRESSING POLITICAL VIEWS ‘FACE SACK’: Anita Singh (£ Telegraph 29/9) said that Tim Davie, the BBC director general, giving evidence to the Commons digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS)committee,  had warned that BBC stars who broke planned new guidelines banning the expression of their political views would face ‘the sack or their Twitter accounts being taken away’.   Mark Duell (Mail 29/9), also reporting the DCMS committee meeting, said that football presenter Gary Lineker had responded to Mr Davie through his twitter account by posting laughing emojis and stating: ‘I think only Twitter can take people off Twitter’. Mr Duell added that  Mr Davie in his appearance had defended radio presenter Zoe Ball’s £1.36 million-a-year salary, stated that the corporation had a strong grip editorially ‘of what we do’, and had defended the current BBC licence fee funding system, including criminal penalties for non-payers, as ‘logical and hard to beat’. He had also asserted that the BBC’s track record of reporting from across the whole of the UK was good. Mr Duell also said that Mr Davie had indicated that in future, the BBC would not be aiming to secure as many consumption hours from audience members.

NEIL DEPARTURE ‘IS A NEEDLESS BBC SELF-INFLICTED WOUND’: Robin Aitken (£ Telegraph 28/9), in a comment article, argued that the departure of Andrew Neil from the BBC to work for new news channel GB New, meant that for the first time for more than 40 years, stretching back through Richard Dimbleby, Robin Day, Jeremy Paxman and John Humphrys, there was at the corporation no ‘number one, undisputed heavyweight political interviewer’.   Mr Aitken claimed that because political interrogators such as Mr Neil could not be conjured up at the drop of hat, the loss of his services was ‘cack-handed’. He reasoned that his departure was not due to absent-mindedness, but because Mr Neil’s particular blend of Conservativism – even though it was tempered by social liberalism – was never going to fit in comfortably at the BBC, with the result that he was passed over for taking over the main presenter’s role at Newsnight. Mr Aitken opined:

‘ . . . the Newsnight role was never offered and the programme remains an anti-Tory laager. As far as the senior echelons of the Corporation were concerned Mr Neil was never going to be “one of us”. This all had to do with his ideological approach, the way he asked his questions.

‘It was Robin Day who once observed that every question contains a disguised comment, and the truth of that can be observed in every political interview you’ve ever heard. Last week, for instance, in the wake of the Chancellor’s new measures I listened as a BBC presenter quizzed a Treasury minister. The line of questioning was all about why more could not have been done and who would be left out of the new support scheme; if Neil had been in the chair the questions would far more likely have been about cost and affordability. He is hard-headed, tough and unsentimental; though his qualities were widely admired when it came to the crunch the BBC decided they were dispensable.’

Mr Aitken, after suggesting that Mr Neil’s new home, GB News, which – unlike other UK broadcasters wanted to avoid the ‘inanities’ of liberal culture – might be thwarted in its mission by Ofcom, asserted that none of the interviewers left at the BBC were candidates to fill Mr Neil’s former interrogator-in-chief role. He concluded that the BBC had inflicted on itself a needless wound.

BBC BIAS DIGEST 28 SEPTEMBER 2020

BBC IMPARTIALITY ‘IS BEING CONSIDERED BY GOVERNMENT’:  Alastair  Stewart (£ Spectator 28/9), discussing press speculation that former Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore and former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre were being considered by Downing Street for the chairmanships (respectively) of the BBC and Ofcom,  claimed that the appointments could ‘redraw the broadcasting landscape’.    Mr Stewart also noted that culture secretary Oliver Dowden – though not commenting directly on the speculation – had told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that the sort of person he wanted for the BBC role ‘would guarantee genuine impartiality at the corporation’ and would ensure that it represented the whole of the UK, not just the metropolitan elite. Mr Stewart added that in the ‘highly competitive’ era of modern broadcasting, there was a growing sense that impartiality had become an afterthought, with journalists often taking to social media to put their own take on stories, and ‘wokery’ at the top.  He said:

‘I sense it but, more importantly, so do thousands of what Alastair Burnet used to call, with respect and affection, ‘the plain folk’. More of them voted to leave the EU; more of them voted for Conservative candidates than Labour candidates in recent general elections. Rightly or wrongly, they sense a greater warmth for Remain than to Leave on the BBC. Rightly or wrongly, they sense a greater affinity to opposition parties than to the government. In truth, it shouldn’t be either and that is the burning issue. These matters, as my quote above of Ofcom clause 5.1 makes clear, must be reported with ‘due accuracy and due impartiality.’ If they are not, Ofcom is the public’s final court of appeal. If their disquiet is not answered to their satisfaction, they have another course of action: they can cancel their TV licence. And many are now doing that.’

Mr Stewart, noting that culture minister John Whittingdale was working on a new definition of public service broadcasting and would soon launch a public consultation on it, said that the various concerns made the issues of dealing with the BBC and impartiality more pressing. He concluded that, while the speculation about Charles Moore and Paul Dacre might be kite-flying, ‘the appointment of people who take the issue of impartiality seriously and will act to defend it’, was on the agenda.