BBC Bias Digest 19 July 2020

TORY MPs: ‘AXING OVER-75 FREE LICENCE FEES IS KICK IN THE TEETH’: The Blue Collar Conservative group of 66 MPs had written to BBC Director General Tony Hall to demand a re-think on the decision to charge over-75s for their licence fees (Express 19/7). Ciaran McGrath reported that, pointing to the BBC’s £5 billion annual income, the letter had attacked unnecessary spending of £100m on ‘diversity’ and the excessive salaries of star such as Gary Lineker and senior executives. He added that the letter underlined the bitter the bitter dispute between the BBC and the government over the issue, with Downing Street describing the new policy as ‘the wrong decision’.   Mr McGrath said that the BBC had responded that if free licence fees had continued, it would have led to the closure of BBC Two, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel and Radio 5 Live.


ROGER MOSEY: ‘BBC BOWING TO STAFF TWITTER CULTURE’ Writing in The Sunday Times (£ 19/7) former Head of BBC Television News Roger Mosey claimed that ‘a battle is under way’ at the BBC between those who want the corporation to ‘stick with its traditional values of impartiality and fairness to all sides’ and those who want it to become ‘more of a campaigning organisation in which journalists shape the agenda to harmonise with their personal views’. The risk, he contended, is of the BBC ‘being drawn into the culture wars being fought in our national life, fuelled by social media’ and that ‘its case for universal funding will collapse if it lands too obviously on one side’.

He said that ‘worried’ insiders, some politically left-of-centre, had told him that life for BBC editors is becoming ‘unbearable’ at times because of pressure, not just from external critics of ‘every viewpoint imaginable’ (including ‘Twitter mobs’) but also because of internal pressure. An example: ‘A veteran editorial figure’ who believes that the BBC should be impartial on Trump and avoid calling him a racist told Mr Mosey that this might now be ‘an unpopular view’, one that would even inspire ‘disgust’ among some colleagues.  Citing examples of BBC journalists recently seeking to impose their opinions on programmes and reports, Mr Mosey said that ‘older BBC hands worry that some more recent recruits don’t understand the decades-old commitment to free speech and impartiality, and they have trouble persuading them to represent both sides of a story’ and that the BBC ‘has struggled to separate its liberal stance as an employer from its obligation to reflect the views of the entire UK’, with the focus on increasing gender and ethnic diversity at the BBC running simultaneously with a ‘narrowing’ of its range of thought and an ‘edging towards groupthink’. He contended that this is something that imperils the BBC’s future because the BBC has already shown itself to be ‘wobbly’ on understanding where public opinion lies and in foreseeing electoral outcomes.

The article ended with Mr Mosey arguing that the ‘huge task’ for the new director-general, Tim Davie, is to ‘shift the culture of the organisation and make it better at reflecting the lives that are lived outside the metropolitan and social media echo chambers’ because BBC journalists ‘do need to understand the astonishing range of views in modern Britain and to respect the right to hold them’. ‘It is, after all, those people who pay their wages — and if they are patronised or ignored, consent for the licence fee will disappear’.


BBC ‘PROPAGANDISTS’ AVOID CRITICS OF LOCKDOWN: Peter Hitchens (Mail on Sunday 19/7), in an article challenging the need to wear face masks as a protection against Covid-19, alleged that BBC ‘propagandists’ had tried as hard as they could ‘never to mention the legions of dissenting scientists who dispute the government’s face mask policy. He claimed that people were beginning to realise that despite this, people were beginning  to wonder whether they had been taken for a ride.

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