DAVIE ‘SET TO BECOME MOST RADICAL DG SINCE DYKE’: John Arlidge (£ Sunday Times 30/8) claimed that Mr Davie was set to introduce the most radical reforms to the BBC since Greg Dyke 20 years ago. Mr Arlidge – explaining that he had not interviewed Mr Davie – said he had pieced together his intentions by talking to ‘senior BBC sources, close friends ands executives who have worked with him’. He added that the changes would include reconnecting with a broader audience by shedding its London-metropolitan bias and its ‘politically correct’ culture, while at the same time ridding the corporation of its ‘lumbering management’, by halving the size of its executive committee from 18 to 9. Mr Arlidge, noting that Mr Davie is the first director general since Sir Michael Checkland in the 1980s not to have a journalistic background, said that he was not afraid of taking on the news ‘behemoth’ to restore impartiality through providing ‘facts, the truth and proper reporting’.
BBC ‘MUST BECOME IMPARTIAL ONCE MORE’: Sir Robbie Gibb (Sunday Telegraph 30/8) argued that events in the past week, including the last night of the proms row, had made the scale of the challenge facing Tim Davie ‘painfully clear.’ He argued that BBC bosses had seemingly seemed so fearful of causing offence to woke activists over racism that they had ended up outraging the majority of the public who were proud of their country, its heritage and traditions, and, further, that the corporation had been ‘culturally captured’ by the left-leaning attitudes of a metropolitan workforce drawn mainly from a similar economic and social background. Sir Robbie added that BBC staff were increasingly letting their political preferences show, ranging from liking certain tweets to flagrant breaches of editorial guideline impartiality rules, such as Lewis Goodall, the Newsnight policy editor, grabbing the New Statesman’s cover story with an attack on the government. He claimed that during the EU referendum, rigorous internal controls ensured bias-fee coverage, but that afterwards, this had been abandoned and ‘group think’ crept back in. He argued that what was now required was a cross-BBC steering group to ensure impartiality across all BBC output and that content genuinely reflected the ‘outlook of the country’. He asserted:
‘In order to provide evidence and benchmarks on which impartiality can be judged, the BBC Board, working with the BBC editorial policy and standards department, should commission regular Ofsted- style reports into individual programmes and how the BBC is handling a particular running story. The BBC can only be justified as a publicly-funded broadcaster if it provides something commercial rivals do not – truly impartial news coverage.
DAVIE ‘TO CLAMP DOWN ON MOONLIGHTING BY BBC PRESENTERS: Rosamund Urwin (£ Sunday Times 30/8) said that Tim Davie, the BBC’s new director general, would clamp down on presenters such as Naga Munchetty, Fiona Bruce and Simon Jack making tens of thousands of pounds by hosting corporate events and moonlighting for private companies. Ms Urwin reported that a ‘source close to Davie’ had said that he believed impartiality was a cornerstone of the BBC and that the corporation needed to think about whether there were things which happened with outside interests and on social media which could erode trust and confidence.
MPs WARN THAT BBC NO LONGER SERVING AUDIENCES: Guido Fawkes (30/8) reported that, according to the Telegraph, the new BBC director general Tim Davie had received a ‘blunt’ letter signed by 14 Tory MPs accusing the BBC of fundamentally failing to ensure it was covering the diverse perspectives and interests of the public, with the result that many no longer wanted to fund it. The letter also instanced several examples of bias reporting, including the BBC1 Panorama programme about supplies of safety equipment to hospitals which had been dominated by Labour-supporting contributors without the audience being properly told.
‘TWO TV NEWS CHANNELS TO RIVAL BBC’: Glen Owen (Mail on Sunday 30/8) said that former BBC executive and Downing Street director of communications Sir Robbie Gibb was spearheading a drive to raise funds for GB News, a 24-hour broadcasting station which would provide what was being described as an antidote to the ‘woke, wet’ BBC. Mr Owen said that the new channel would use a ’standard digital platform’ such as Freeview and had already been granted a licence to operate by broadcasting regulator Ofcom. He added that pressure on the BBC would further increase with the development of a second rival, a news channel from Rupert Murdoch’s News UK company, likely to be streamed online in a similar way to Netflix. Mr Owen – referring to the controversy about the dropping of the sung version of Rule, Britannia from the last night of the proms – also reported that Lord Hall, the outgoing BBC director general, had insisted that the BBC was not ‘a woke’ corporation and that his predecessor, Tim Davie (due to take over on September 1) had jointly approved the decision about the proms. Mr Owen added that ‘a source close to GB News had said that the servicer would be ‘truly impartial’ and would deliver the facts, ‘not opinion dressed up as news’. He speculated that broadcasters such as Andrew Neil and Julia Hartley-Brewer had been approached about working for both channels, and said that News UK was ‘at pains’ top point out that it would not be a British version of the ‘right-wing’ Fox News in the US, but rather a television version of services such as TalkRadio. He added that GB News had also distanced itself from Fox News and from ‘claims that Nigel Farage would be involved’.
NEW DG ‘COULD REVERSE PROMS DECISION’: Ryan Sabey (Sun 29/8), quoting a ‘BBC insider’, said that incoming director general Tim Davie believed that the corporation’s decision to axe the sung versions of Rule, Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory at this year’s last night of the proms had wrought ‘terrible damage’ on the BBC and could reverse it.
Scarlet Howes (Mail on Sunday 30/8) claimed that, according a report on the Slipped Disc music website, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, which performed at the last night of the proms, had held a ‘panicked meeting’ about ‘unconscious bias’ and ‘institutional racism’ a few weeks before the row over the content of the concert. She added that the meeting, which discussed responses to the Black Lives Matter movement, decided to forge close links with Chineke!, the first professional orchestra in Europe to be made up mainly of black and ethnic minority musicians.
OFCOM ‘INVESTIGATING BBC’s COMMERCIAL PLUGS FOR BRITBOX’: Matthew Moore (£ Times 28/8) said that the BBC was facing an Ofcom review of its decision to run advertisements for Britbox , a commercial programme box set service provided through online streaming in which it owned a 10 per cent stake. Mr Moore explained that Britbox was a joint venture between the BBC and ITV – which owned the remaining 90 per cent – and cost subscribers £5.99 a month to access classic episodes of series such as Doctor Who. He said that Ofcom investigation had been sparked after a promotion for Britbox was run after an episode of Doctor Who, and suggested that the regulator would likely conduct a wider review of the BBC’s rules for cross-promoting commercial products later in the year. Mr Moore noted that the BBC’s rivals had long complained that the BBC had an unfair advantage because it could market products on its television and radio stations at no cost. There were strict guidelines on the promotion of commercial products, but in the Doctor Who case, the BBC had said it was permissible because it was a trial scheme ‘focused on helping viewers find materials directly relevant to the show they had just watched’.
BORIS JOHNSON ‘NOT DOING ENOUGH’ IN LICENCE FEE ROW: Gerrard Kaonga (Express 30/8) reported that Dennis Reed, the director of the campaign group Silver Voices – which was trying to reverse the BBC’s decision to charge over-75s for their BBC licence fees – had accused prime minister Boris Johnson of ‘washing his hands’ of being able to intervene. Mr Reed claimed that the BBC would jump at the opportunity of talks with the prime minister about resolving the matter, but so far Mr Johnson had said everything was down to the BBC. Mr Reed asserted:
‘The Government must approach the BBC rather than conduct an argument through the press, which is what has happened up to now. They could approach the BBC and the new director-general and say we have got to quell this dissatisfaction amongst the over-60s.’