BBC’S CONTEMPT FOR BREXIT ‘HAS DESTROYED CASE FOR THE LICENCE FEE’: Former editor of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Rod Liddle (Sun 26/8), in a comment piece, said that he would never again pay his television licence fee because the decision by the corporation to drop the sung versions of Rule, Britannia and Land Of Hope and Glory from the last night of the proms was a sign that the BBC held middle England – regarded as ‘nasty little Englanders who probably voted for Brexit’ – in ‘utter contempt’. He added that his former employers could not tolerate anything which did not fit in to its ‘woke’ agenda.
A Sun editorial (26/8) argued on similar lines and asserted that the BBC’s approach to the proms showed that the corporation no longer sought to represent or entertain the 50 percent of the population who had repeatedly back Brexit and the Tories. The article said:
‘Its decision now to censor Rule, Britannia! and Land of Hope and Glory ought to be the last straw. Boris Johnson has rightly joined many others in condemning it. And though it is not for the PM to decide the BBC’s output, his Government can and should end its publicly funded financial model. The Beeb could turn this around. It just doesn’t want to. It dislikes much about Britain and is ashamed of our past. The BBC has destroyed the case for its licence fee. It’s time the Government stopped griping about it and took action.’
The Sun also reported (26/8) that a ‘chorus of anger’ had met the BBC’s decision to ban the words to Rule, Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory at the last night of the proms, with attacks on director general Tony Hall for his failure to intervene and intensifying calls to defund the BBC from figures such as the actor Laurence Fox. The article said that prime minister Boris Johnson had blasted the ‘cringing embarrassment’ over Britain’s history and had demanded that the nation should stop its ‘culture of wetness’. It was also noted that the late Dame Vera Lynn’s sung version of Land of Hope and Glory had reached number one in the iTunes chart after the singer’s daughter had urged the BBC to reverse its decision over the song, which, she said, her mother had started singing at VE Day in 1945.
Robert Hardman (Daily Mail 26/8) noted that that the BBC had also dropped the sung versions of Rule, Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory from the last night of the proms in 2001 because it had been decided they would strike the wrong note so soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York. He argued that the BBC’s reasons this time – that it was a ‘creative conclusion’ in response to limitations created by Covid-19 simply fell apart when subjected to scrutiny because ‘safe’ songs such as Jerusalem and You’ll Never Walk Alone were being sung.
The Daily Mail (26/8) also reported that Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had weighed into the row and had asserted that the proms were a staple of the British summer and that enjoying patriotic songs was not a barrier to examining and learning lessons about history. The article also noted that director general Tony Hall had told BBC media editor Amol Rajan that he backed the decision over the proms and had said it was the ‘right conclusion’.
It was also reported that Cat Lewis, the producer of BBC1 programme Songs of Praise had compared the lyrics of the two songs to ‘Nazis singing about the gas chambers’. She had said:
‘Do those Brits who believe it’s ok to sing an 18th Century song about never being enslaved, written when the UK was enslaving and killing millions of innocents, also believe it’s appropriate for neo-Nazis to shout, ‘We will never be forced into a gas chamber.’
CHARLES MOORE ‘COULD SORT BBC PROBLEMS’: Paul Goodman (Conservative Home 25/8), discussing the selection of the next BBC chairman in the context of the current row over the dropping from the proms of the words of Rule, Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory, said that two names stood out: Andrew Neil and Charles Moore. Mr Goodman said that Moore was a ‘high Tory’, who could not see an institution without wanting to shore it up, and Neil a ‘low one’ who couldn’t see one without wanting to tear it down. He added that Neil, as a BBC presenter and interviewer knew a lot about the corporation from the inside and would want to shake it up, but was said to be involved in the setting up of a new enterprise to rival Sky News. Mr Goodman said:
‘If a Neil appointment would have senior BBC managers heading for the doors, a Moore one would see them running for the hills’.
He argued that Moore understood Lord Reith’s inheritance and would be more than capable of applying its ideals to education, drama, the regions and programming as a whole, as well as orientating the BBC towards the nation as a whole, including the majority which voted leave in 2016, and Britain outside central London.
MICHAEL CRICK: ‘BBC NOT COMMITTED TO GENUINE DIVERSITY’: Michael Crick (£ Spectator 26/8), noting that the BBC had committed spending of £100m on achieving diversity, suggested that they were thinking in terms of what was currently narrowly fashionable, namely, ‘gender, race and sexuality’, at the expense of the elderly, the poor, those who lived in the north and in rural areas, and those who did not go into higher education. He warned that until the definition of diversity included these people, the BBC would ‘never understand it whole audience. Mr Crick added: ‘It will grow ever more out of touch with the have-nots, the left-behinds, and the people who voted leave the EU.’
CARRIE GRACIE ‘QUITS BBC’: BBC correspondent Carrie Gracie – who had resigned from her role covering China in 2018 when she had discovered she was paid less than male correspondents – had decided to leave the BBC after 33 years (Daily Mail 26/8). Rory Tingle reported that Ms Gracie had subsequently received a pay rise and back pay, as well as sparking a corporation-wide row about pay inequalities.