BBC Digest


NEW BBC CHAIRMAN ‘SHOULD NOT BE TROJAN HORSE’: Television presenter and former Conservative MP Gyles Brandreth (£ Telegraph 12/10) asserted that he agreed with former BBC presenter David Dimbleby that the new chairman of the BBC should be someone ‘who believes in the BBC’  and not someone who ‘would bring the broadcaster to heel’.  He said:

‘Appointing a chairman with a view to that chairman undermining the very organisation they are supposed to lead isn’t on. The BBC employs 22,000 people, and twice as many freelancers (like me), and in my experience these are good people – talented, committed, and for the most part not that generously paid – and they deserve to be led by someone who respects, understands and values what they are doing, and can help them to do it even better.

‘You can’t have a general who doesn’t believe in the army or a conductor who despises music, can you? The BBC needs a chairman who will be its champion, not a Trojan Horse sent to reinvent it on the sly.’

By contrast, former Circuit Judge Peter Birts QC, in a letter to the Telegraph (£ 12/10), wrote:

‘If David Dimbleby thinks it’s the BBC’s job to be “a thorn in the side of government” (report, October 10), he has already disqualified himself from the chairmanship by reason of a total misreading of the BBC Charter, the Framework Agreement and the Ofcom Broadcasting Code, all of which require the corporation to commit itself to “achieving due impartiality in all its output”. (See also section 4 of the BBC’s editorial guidelines.) If this misunderstanding has been widespread among other senior figures, it explains a great deal.’



BBC ‘PUSHES  RE-IMAGINED FAIRY TALES’ TO AVOID ‘BAD MESSAGES’: Kurt Zendulka (Breitbart 11/10) said that the BBC was promoting  a series of ‘woke’ versions of fairy tales by former BBC Blue Peter presenter  Konnie Huq, who had been inspired to write them by her battles to win pay parity with men. Mr Zendulka reported that in Ms Huq’s book Fearless Fairy Tales, Sleeping Beauty had become ‘Sleeping Brainy’  while ‘Gretel and Hansel’ saw the former resenting the fact her twin brother was paid more for the same sweet-shop labour.

GOVERNMENT ‘COULD PRIVATISE CHANNEL 4’:  Ben Woods (£ Telegraph 11/10) suggested that ‘ministers’ were considering whether Channel 4 – currently state-owned – should be privatised and also whether ITV and Channel 5’s public service obligations should be scrapped. Mr Woods noted that media minister John Whittingdale had earlier in the week questioned whether Channel 4 – which had been forced during the pandemic to cuts its production budget by £150m and find £95m in savings – had a viable future in its current form. Mr Woods added that ITV and Channel 5 were both lobbying about public service obligations because they entailed higher costs and attracted smaller audiences than game shows and drama.

BBC STARS ‘PAID MORE THAN DISCLOSED’:  Chris Hastings (Mail on Sunday 11/10) claimed that many of the BBC’s biggest stars were becoming resentful that the true earnings of some of their colleagues were not being disclosed because they received large percentages of their pay from BBC Studios, which kept such figures out of the public domain. Mr Hastings instanced Fiona Bruce, who he said enjoyed a disclosed income of £450,000 from her roles in news presenting and as host of BBC1 Question Time, but was actually thought to earn more than £1 million a year through additional programmes such as The Antiques Roadshow, which was made by BBC Studios. He added that the BBC had responded that the BBC Charter did not require it to disclose pay from BBC Studios.



BBC ‘TO HIRE PR CHIEF TO PLUG LICENCE FEE’: Bill McLoughlin (Express 10/10) said that the BBC had ‘launched a desperate last-ditch attempt to save its own licence fee’ by advertising for a public affairs chief to act as a bridge between the corporation and parliament and devise a new public affairs strategy. Mr McLoughlin, claiming that the new post holder would earn almost £300,000 a year, said the new PR boss would report directly to director general Tim Davie with the goal of persuading MPs of the ‘importance of a reasonable and sustainable licence fee’.

BBC FACES ‘BACKLASH’ OVER ‘OFFENSIVE’ PODCASTS: Paul Revoir (Mail 10/10) reported that the BBC was facing ‘a backlash’ for using licence fee payers’ money to ‘fund lewd and puerile podcasts’ in which much of the content was ‘too offensive to describe’ which were available via the BBC Sounds platform and aimed at young audiences. Mr Revoir said the Conservative MP Peter Bone was among those who had criticised the podcasts, which included ‘foul language, an entire episode dedicated to defecation, sexually explicit descriptions,  graphic discussions of people wetting themselves, details of sexually explicit social media messages and crass conversations about the prime minister’s genitals’.   He added that the BBC had responded by claiming that the creation of content that was relevant to young listeners was part of the BBC’s public service remit and rightly contained podcasts which ‘discuss relationships and explore real-life issues’.


DAVID DIMBLEBY ‘TO SAVE BBC FROM MALIGN CHAIRMAN’: David Churchill (Mail 10/10) claimed that the veteran broadcaster David Dimbleby was considering applying for the chairmanship of the BBC, allegedly to counter the ‘malign’ impact that the appointment of a figure such as Charles Moore, the former editor of the Daily Telegraph, would have on the corporation. Mr Churchill said that Mr Dimbleby – citing Mr Moore’s views on gay marriage and race – said that someone with ‘a more open mind’ was required.  He had also said:

‘I still might [apply], depending on who comes forward. Boris Johnson, we know, wants to bring the BBC to heel. We don’t want a chairman who connives in that ambition.’

Pressed on why he opposed Lord Moore, he had said: ‘I was horrified…not because of his political views, but because he hates the BBC.’

He had added: ‘No politicians have ever liked the BBC, the BBC is a thorn in the side of government and that’s its job and therefore it’s always disliked by governments.

‘So when it was announced, and I gather absolutely it was his intention that Johnson was going to put Charles Moore in, at that point… I was going to put my name forward to be chairman.’


‘ONLY 50.9% OF BBC EMPLOYEES ATTENDED STATE COMPREHENSIVES’: Anita Singh (£ Telegraph 9/10), reporting BBC director general Tim Davie’s speech at an Ofcom conference about a lack of ‘diversity’ in BBC staff, said that data from the corporation’s equality information report had found that 22.7% of employees in the news division had attended independent or fee-paying schools, compared to around 6% in the population as a whole. The report also found that 15% of BBC staff hired in the past year had been educated at private schools, and that overall, only 50.9% of BBC staff had attended state comprehensives. Ms Singh also reported that Mr Davie had told the conference he wanted more diverse voices.




KELVIN MACKENZIE ‘APPLIES FOR BBC CHAIR ROLE’: Guido Fawkes (7/10) claimed that the Department of Digital, Media Culture and Sport had confirmed that former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie had applied for the post of chairman of the BBC, and ‘in the interests of transparency’, that he had released a video which showed the ‘injustice’ involved in his exit from his role as Sun editor.

BBC RECRUITMENT ‘TO BE MORE DIVERSE’: Melanie Kaidan (Express 8/10) reported  that BBC director general Tim Davie, in pursuit of greater ‘diversity’ among corporation staff, had told an Ofcom conference that, in future, fewer recruits would be accepted from private schools and Oxbridge. Ms Kaidan said he had told the online audience that the BBC would no longer take people from ‘a certain academic track’ and would base restructuring on finding ‘different types of people and different voices’ from across the UK. He had said:

“I get a sense in our research that there are certain people who don’t connect with us. ‘Is the BBC for me?’ That’s about being out of London, it’s about programming choices, who speaks for us, who we put up in the newsroom. All those things need modernising to represent what is a more diverse Britain.”


BBC ‘NOT REFLECTING WHITE WORKING CLASS’: Anita Singh (£ Telegraph 6/10) reported that June Sarpong, the BBC director of creative diversity, had told an Ofcom conference that the BBC had failed to connect with ‘white working class’ audiences and must do more to make them feel represented. Ms Singh noted that in her speech Ms Sarpong had claimed that she was the only black person on the BBC executive committee and that ‘there was nothing new in that’.  She had also asserted that the corporation still did not connect with BAME audiences, and that the BBC’s survival depended on its diversity, ‘as that is what young audiences demand’.


SIR ROBBIE GIBB ‘FAVOURITE TO BECOME BBC CHAIRMAN’: Christopher Hope (£ Telegraph 5/10) claimed that former BBC news executive and Downing Street communications chief Sir Robbie Gibb had emerged as a ‘surprise frontrunner’ to become the new chairman of the BBC.  Mr Hope said that others now in the frame included Sir Peter Bazalgette, currently the chairman of ITV, and Trevor Phillips, a former chairman of the equalities commission.  Mr Hope added that Sir Robbie, who had recently been advising GB News, the new news service to be fronted by Andrew Neil, was seen as a reformer and a potential ally of the new BBC director general Tim Davie, who had promised to deliver reforms.


MOORE ‘NOT APPLYING’ TO BECOME BBC CHAIRMAN: Ryan Fahey (Mail online 3/10) claimed that former Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore, who had been thought to be the leading contender to become the next chairman of the BBC was said to have decided not to apply for the role ‘for personal reasons’.


BBC ‘SECURED PRINCESS DIANA SCOOP  UNDER FALSE PRETENCES’: Craig Byers (Is the BBC Biased? 4/10) reported that the Sunday Times had claimed that the BBC’s Martin Bashir – who had secured in 1995 a ‘bombshell’ interview with Princess Diana in which she had said there were ‘three of us’ in her marriage to Prince Charles – had secured the scoop by allegedly misleading her brother, the Earl Spencer.  Mr Byers said the article had also claimed the allegations would raise difficult questions for the BBC as it had conducted an internal investigation at the time and cleared itself of any wrongdoing.


DAME JENNI MURRAY ATTACKS ‘SUFFOCATING’ AUNTIE: Jessica Carpani (Telegraph 3/10) reported that Dame Jenni Murray, who had stood down as presenter of BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour programme after 30 years, had launched a ‘scathing attack’ on her former employers for banning her from presenting items on the 2019 general election or about transgender issues because of her allegedly biased opinions.

Writing in the Daily Mail (2/10), Dame Jenni – emphasising that she had fought the many inequalities she perceived existed against women throughout her time in the role  – explained that on transgender issues, she had ‘merely asked the trans activities to acknowledge the difference between sex and gender’ and had been ‘shocked’ by the BBC’s response which had been to ban her from chairing any discussions on the trans question or the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act. Dame Jenni, who suggested she had been stopped from political reporting for stating that she supported the UK staying in the EU, and found the embrace of the BBC as ‘sometimes suffocating’, said:

‘It’s an interesting word, impartiality. For years, until recently, I and other broadcast journalists have written articles and books. In my case they were often controversial ones on marriage, abortion, pornography or bringing up boys, and I suffered no comeback from the BBC. At one point I was actually encouraged by a channel controller to write a regular column as a way of widening awareness of Woman’s Hour and Radio 4.

‘Impartiality was perceived as what a presenter demonstrated in the studio. It was not assumed that the radio or television audience expected the men and women who entered their homes on a daily basis to be dull ciphers with no opinions or personalities. I defy anyone to know which political party I have voted for, or what I think about the current moves towards Brexit, or the way the coronavirus crisis has been handled — because, on air, I have been impartial, exactly as I should have been. I do hope the new Director- General, Tim Davie, will bear this in mind and have no fear of a seemingly unfriendly government or the Twitter mob bringing down his greatest broadcasters.’

Dame Jenni also attacked the pay of female presenters at the BBC who earned more than she had. In the Telegraph article, Ms Carpani said the BBC had responded to Dame Jenni’s observations by saying the corporation wished her well in her new role as a columnist, ‘but the public will understand  the importance of impartiality while working at the BBC’.



BBC ‘DOUBLES BORROWING LIMIT’: Rachel Russell (Express 2/10), in the context of director general Tim Davie’s appearance before the Commons Digital Media and Sport committee earlier in the week,  noted that the BBC’s annual report  showed that the corporation had ‘demanded’ permission from the government to borrow an an extra £1 billion (doubling the current limit of £1 billion) in order to pay for changes in to the international accounting standard in lease laws. Ms Russell said the extra spending capacity had been criticised by the Defund the BBC campaign, which had pointed out the BBC was paying huge salaries to star presenters while at the same time withdrawing free licence fees for the over-75s.


BBC ‘EMPLOYED ME BECAUSE OF THE COLOUR OF MY SKIN’: Ramsha Khan (£ Telegraph 30/9), in a personal opinion piece, explained that after undergoing work experience at the BBC in Manchester and London, she now believed – ‘as a woman of Asian heritage’ – she had been ‘invited into the gilded palace of political correctness because of the colour of my skin, not because of my insights. If I had been white, I doubt I would ever have been parked in front of a microphone’. Ms Khan described how she had noticed something was ‘off’ when she had been invited to appear in a programme on BBC Radio Manchester. She said:

‘I naively presumed I was invited because they believed I would have something insightful to add. It was a blow when a producer on the show, seeing me, casually said “Oh, we’ve hit the diversity quota today”. The panel consisted of five of us, all ethnic minorities. At that instant it seemed as if I had been invited purely based on my ethnicity. I felt as if I was being defined by my race and cultural background, rather than as a person.

‘From there, it was a short hop to feeling as if I was expected to have “correct” opinions on certain issues. The fact that I might not view the world through socially progressive biases – that, as a conservative-leaning person I might support Brexit, for example – seemed not to have occurred to them.’

Ms Khan concluded that because of the BBC’s  approach to ‘diversity’, the time was right to defund it.