ROBIN AITKEN: ‘BBC WILL PAY THE PRICE FOR FAILING TO TACKLE BIAS’: Author and former BBC journalist Robin Aitken, writing in the Spectator ( £ 10/8), argued that the BBC had ‘only has itself to blame’ for ‘the [over-75s] licence fee mess’ by getting itself into an argument it doesn’t want to have – especially as ‘more and more younger people’ are ditching the BBC in favour of web-based streaming channels and ‘growing numbers of people on the right of politics’ are ‘withholding payment of the licence fee because of BBC bias’.
His contented that the BBC – despite the Hutton Inquiry – remained an essentially Blairite institution with ‘scant regard’ to ‘the sensibilities of Tories’ – a situation veiled, he claimed, by the ‘Tory-lite’ administrations of David Cameron and Theresa May, but made ‘evident’ by the administration of Boris Johnson. He asserted: ‘The BBC’s heartfelt opposition to Brexit represents an unbridgeable chasm’.
Mr Aitken contended that Dominic Cummings was a sworn enemy at the heart of government who believed the BBC was permeated by leftist ideology. He argued that despite his key role, the corporation had inflamed matters by broadcasting a documentary about Mr Cummings as ‘a sinister manipulator of public opinion for unsavoury political ends’, and then had launched an ‘obsessive pursuit’ of Mr Cummings over his ‘notorious trip to the North’, culminating in a BBC2 Newsnight introduction in which presenter Emily Maitlis had decided she was ‘entitled to speak to the nation’; in condemnation of him. Mr Aitken argued that this amounted to ‘a forceful attempt to unseat the Prime Minister’s senior adviser’, and left Downing Street ‘incandescent with rage’ in a relationship already poisoned ‘by decades of covert hostility to the Conservative cause inside the BBC’. He further argued that there was now strong sense in all this of a reckoning and of chickens coming home to roost.
Turning to the licence fee, Mr Aitken also claimed that there was an ‘irony’ in the BBC imposing a charge on a ‘vulnerable’ group (old people), the very people it used to berate governments for not supporting’. He said the licence fee decision had landed the corporation with ‘hard choices’: ‘Perhaps that half a million quid a year for that newsreader is a bit high? Perhaps that ex-footballer bloke doesn’t need a million for fronting Match of The Day? Perhaps some of those pointless middle-managers could be let go?’ Mr Aitken further contended that the decision to save money by sacking large numbers of ‘frontline journalists’ while failing to ’tackle the ‘rampant bias’ which stemmed from a total lack of political diversity among the staff was an error of judgment. He asserted: ‘Until the Corporation admits to that problem and starts doing something about it, the rift will not be healed’.
He concluded: ‘Auntie needs more than cosmetic surgery; she needs to re-discover the meaning of ‘impartiality’ if her relationship with the government is to be repaired. A BBC that was once again trusted by all would not only be a great national asset but also the best guarantee of the Corporation’s future. As things stand the BBC has made an enemy of the government and will pay the price.’
’93 PER CENT SUPPORT LICENCE FEE STRIKE’: Emily Ferguson (Express 11/8) said that a poll among readers had found that 93 per cent of respondents would support a strike by over-75s against paying the BBC licence fee. Ms Ferguson reported that comments by the respondents included: ‘The Bully Boy Corporation must be brought down. They are treating pensioners in an appalling manner and spending huge amounts of our money on attempts to modify public opinion on multiculturalism. These are people who are out of control, providing rubbish services and think they know best. We must insist that the Government no only sorts out the no-charge licence for the over-75s but also provides a referendum on the licence fee.’