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.