BBC Director General

Tim Davie: Reformist or PR Hype?

Tim Davie: Reformist or PR Hype?

Is Tim Davie genuinely a reformer?

His regime as new BBC director general took off at an apparent breakneck speed from September 1. In his first three days in office, he reversed the decision not to include the sung version of Rule Britannia in the last night of the proms; said he was going to ensure BBC output was scrupulously impartial; claimed that management and staffing of the corporation were to be slimmed down and made more sharply efficient; he axed former Labour minister James Purnell, who, under Tony Hall,  had improbably become the corporation’s  director or radio and education, from the BBC’s executive committee; warned presenters to stop tweeting and posting political opinions; and declared that BBC colonisation of the airwaves through the development of new channels were over.

But not so fast.  Is his agenda really radical? Or PR hype?

The answer lies in the small print – and, more tellingly, in what he did not say  – in his address to staff made at lunchtime on Thursday (September 3) at BBC Cardiff, now housed in a spanking new £100m Welsh headquarters building

One immediate point is that his headline-grabbing decision to change the format of the last night of the proms next Saturday (September 12) was no big deal.  A choir was already performing in the Royal Albert Hall and was going to sing You’ll Never Walk Alone.  Of concern – showing perhaps that nothing much has yet changed at the corporation – is the wording of the BBC press statement about the decision. It’s an exercise in PR guff and obfuscation which casts what had clearly been a woke decision to axe patriotic songs as being determined by creative considerations.

Perhaps Mr Davie’s  biggest pledge is his push to restore BBC impartiality. That he has to say this at all – given that it is a core Charter requirement – shows the extent of the decline of the corporation.

Here, the crash-bang announcement was that Emily Maitlis and the army of BBC presenters who believe their legitimate goal is to change the world according to the rubric of the woke instruction manual rather than to report it, are going to be muzzled and prevented from posting incontinently on social media and Twitter. If true, that’s a welcome development, even if it comes well after the horse has bolted.

But will even this relatively straightforward intention work out? Already, there are reports that Gary Lineker, the £1.7 million-a-year lead presenter of BBC football, has shown he doesn’t give a hoot what Tim Davie thinks. On Friday, he launched a political advocacy video which – in pushing the need for open UK borders – suggests  that we would not have fish and chips if mass immigration not been in full flow throughout the centuries.

And what of restoring impartiality in a more general sense? Here, Mr Davie has the  biggest mountain to climb. The rot set in decades ago with the BBC’s pathological hatred of Margaret Thatcher – yielding programme’s such as the Panorama edition Maggie’s Militant Tendency – and reaching its zenith under the recently-retired  Lord Hall of Birkenhead.

He never tired of telling us his BBC was free from bias while shutting down whole rafts of national debate over issues such as climate change and swearing blind Brexit coverage was balanced when patently, it was not.

And the problem with BBC bias, of course,  is that it is not just in news reporting and current affairs programmes. It totally saturates output. Dramas are now made primarily to preach political points and to reflect diversity targets. Doctor Who, according to BBC director of content Charlotte Moore is ‘inspirational’. Why? Because it’s cracking good drama? Of course not! It’s because it now has a female in the main role. The fulcrum of most BBC comedy is ridicule of Donald Trump. Nature programmes such as Springwatch have become, in effect, Extinction Rebellion propaganda manuals.  Science so-called documentaries are commissioned and constructed to make  political points (as Charlotte Moore’s speech also underlines), and history programmes are a sustained exercise in attacking the United Kingdom and its achievements while simultaneously pushing a globalist agenda.

So what is Mr Davie going to do about this vast, multi-billion pounds avalanche of bias and distortion? Here,  his speech of last week – apart from the headline-catching assault on tweeting – was largely silent. He said he was ‘committed’ to it, and said vaguely that there would be a re-casting of internal editorial guidelines and some ‘training’.

That’s like using a toffee hammer to demolish a house. There are no new internal measures for reviewing and policing output; and nothing about bringing independent scrutiny to challenge the decisions and judgments made by BBC staff. And David Jordan, the BBC director of editorial standards – who some credit with offering a smidgeon of ballast against the relentless tide of wokeness under Lord Hall  – has been axed from the Tim Davie executive committee, while June Sarpong, the Lord Hall-promoted director of diversity, remains.

Mr Davie was virtually silent, too, about how to restore impartiality, but, by contrast, not so on ‘diversity’. That, he said, was  a top priority in every editorial meeting and every future staff appointment, in steps towards creating BBC staffing which is 20 per cent black and ethnic minority, compared to 13 per cent in the population as a whole.

And what of the licence fee? On that subject, not a peep, even though polls have suggested that 60 percent of the UK population oppose it and view it as an anachronism in the world of Sky Q, Netflix and Amazon Prime.

That’s an astonishing omission, given the pressure now building to abolish it.  Especially as Mr Davie also declared that he is opposed to a shift to subscription financing.

 

Nicholas Burnett: Can Tim Davie Turn the Tide of Bias?

Nicholas Burnett: Can Tim Davie Turn the Tide of Bias?

This is a Guest Post from Nicholas Burnett from The Conservative Woman:

THE paradox of the Western World is encapsulated by the angst the BBC so willingly brings upon itself. Once a central plank of British culture, it is now part of a pro-globalising bourgeois media-set who will report ‘largely peaceful protests’ straight-faced against a backdrop of burning cities. It’s as if there is something the rest of us are not privy to. And of course, there is.

Black Lives Matter, a far-Left Marxist organisation, was immediately hailed. BBC coverage continually affirmed the BLM narrative, at times taking a campaigning tone for the cause. Like many, I objected to the clearly favourable line on a movement which descended into rioting, but the wider issue is the corporation’s merger with Left-leaning identity politics.

I complained to the BBC in June. I pointed out that under the BLM narrative white people are summarily accused of racism; that the BBC fails to balance its sudden specific interest in police brutality with a wider context; conflating American experience with the British is absurd and that the far greater cause of violent black deaths is ignored. I finished ‘I despair for race relations following the hysterical coverage and tensions you have abetted’. And I genuinely do. If anyone at the BBC thinks its approach will have a generally wholesome impact on race relations they are deluded. One only has to see the thinking behind UKBLM how divisive their message is.

https://twitter.com/Never_Again2020/status/1298982384059084802

In response, the BBC claimed its reporting ‘reflects the global impact . . . and the strength of feeling . . . galvanised’ insisting that it ‘will continue to report impartially on issues highlighted as this story develops’. When it talks about ‘global impact’ and ‘strength of feeling’ one can only assume it is referring to its own echo chamber which includes other Leftist cultural institutions, academics and campaigners. You can respond back to the BBC if you are unhappy with its first reply, which I did, and two months on no follow-up has been received (rather an email suggesting I try Ofcom as they are oh-so-busy right now).

BLM has explicit aims to destabilise society. Surely its inflammatory messaging is relevant to the looting and violence continuing in America as well as abuse of and attacks on police officers on both sides of the Atlantic? When 36 police officers were injured in London in that first weekend of unrest in June, the BBC talked of ‘largely peaceful protests’ and omitted to inform viewers about what BLM thinks about our police. None of this matters to the BBC in the same way it would (and did) do when those ‘protesting’ are white nationalists. The BBC believes it has an active duty to stand against racism but it conflates the narrative of activism with reporting, apparently assuming the righteous position of BLM from the outset.

Throughout the summer, in the midst of racial tension stoked by Marxist agitators, the BBC chose to amplify individuals’ claims of racism against the police without challenge or context. The same sense of grievance plays out in much of the ‘woke’ narrative too often consuming BBC News output. Many black people don’t feel deeply offended by white society. Many gays feel awkward with train carriages painted in their name. Many women roll their eyes when the next round of gender-pay grievance figures is headlined. Conservative views are omitted from the BBC’s narrative as it gives credence to ‘strong feeling’ over balanced rational coverage. Britons do care about fairness, tolerance and equality but not the version pushed by activists.

Michael Collins, author of The Likes of Us: A Biography of the White Working Class, touched on the issue of race in a recent interview with Peter Whittle: ‘We kind of covered it ’cos we had to . . . we are being educated by people that didn’t have that experience’.  

White working-class Londoners did the BLM thing 40 years ago, moving through and beyond racial tensions as a community that got on with it. The liberal middle classes have apparently suddenly discovered this cause, delivering the message with a tone that insists on national self-reflection and demands a review and cleansing of the past. Many see through this preaching for what it is: vanity.

The ruling elites with a globalised worldview in both the USA and here in the UK were sent packing by electorates in 2016 yet a bourgeois liberal class have retained their position as cultural custodians and decanters of information in the media they control. Trump and Brexit were shocking to these elites but self-explained as mere interruptions to their assured hegemony which with the ‘right information’ the electorate could and would be corrected to understand what’s good for them. The explanation BBC Newsnight editor Lewis Goodall has for public dissatisfaction with output lies somewhere around the retort that ‘sometimes the truth hurts’:

Unfortunately there is another ‘truth’ to which the BBC is oblivious: Brexit didn’t go away and far from being shamed as an embarrassing irony of the misinformed, Trump is hot on the heels of Biden in the American polls and may well be about to take round two. What are the liberals not seeing? Perhaps they, too, need ‘unconscious bias’ training about working-class Britons?

The BBC continues unabashed with a declaration for more diversity. What it sees is not unique among our institutions’ worldview: race, sexuality and gender have become primary factors in the worth and measurement of people. For example, after the selection of Kamala Harris as Biden’s candidate for vice president I was left knowing little about her beyond her sex and race – I could have figured those out for myself. By choosing this path it taps into a navel-gazing narcissism which will only demand ever more attention.

For institutions, identity politics may cynically keep bureaucratic claims of inequality and discrimination at bay but ‘being seen to do something’ hardly lays the foundations for lasting change or growth. For the individual, identity politics may help the existentially weak claim a sense of Self, but it hardly builds real character, resilient enough to integrate into the whole of society ‘just as oneself is’. Last week the Huffington Post reported claims of institutional racism within the BBC with employees of its Africa service complaining that having a white manager is akin to ‘working the cotton plantations’ of old.

This really is what you reap when you sow a vision of humanity that goes no deeper than the immutable characteristics of birth and assumes those are the determiners of our life experience.

We are told that incoming director-general Tim Davie is seeking to reform the BBC and make its output more politically diverse. But will he be able to turn back the tide?

 

Image by Patrick Behn from Pixabay