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.