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BBC bias: An open letter to the new director-general

BBC bias: An open letter to the new director-general

THE BBC’s bias on Brexit has been proven beyond doubt. That is the Telegraph‘s response to News-watch’s latest report on the BBC’s Brexit coverage this week. In the words of Robin Aitken, former BBC producer and author of The Noble Liar (an excoriating and deeply perceptive book about BBC bias) our report shows an overwhelming pro-EU slant in BBC coverage from the close analysis of one random week.

The conclusion we reached, and Aitken concurs with, is that the Corporation is still regarding Brexit through the lens of Project Fear.

The question Aitken raises is whether the new director general of the BBC will take it seriously. Your move, Tim Davie, he says.

As he reports, we are indeed seeking an urgent meeting with Mr Davie to discuss how he intends to meet his pledge to make BBC impartiality a priority. And we are still waiting to hear whether he is prepared to put his money where his mouth is and, unlike his predecessor, accord News-watch the time of day and the respect its long-term independent monitoring of the BBC’s Brexit output deserves.

To encourage him on the path he’s promised, here is our open letter to him in advance of that meeting.

Dear Mr Davie

On September 3, in your first address to staff after taking over as director general, you stated that impartiality – as required by the BBC Charter – would be your main priority. 

You have announced measures which require staff not to post biased remarks or opinions on social media.

That sounds good, and was handled by the gargantuan 350-strong BBC PR machine to achieve maximum impact but, with respect,  BBC bias is not confined to ill-advised tweets – crass as they may be – from John Simpson and Gary Lineker.

Everything from comedy to drama and from the educational content of BBC Bitesize and BBC Ideas is also infected with woke, partisan zeal. 

One indication of the scale of the rot is the latest News-watch report.

Which, as Robin Aitken outlined, shows that despite everything that has happened since the 2016 referendum and the imminent departure from the EU ratified by the 2019 general election, the corporation is still pursuing Project Fear about life outside the EU, and is still swamping EU coverage with the views of  those who oppose Brexit or are pro-EU .

On top of that, not one programme has ever been broadcast by the BBC which explores possible benefits of departure. In sharp contrast, hundreds of hours of programmes have been devoted to climate alarmism and the supposed benefits of electric cars, so called ‘green’ energy and a carbon-free future.

But the reality is that a full audit of the extent of BBC failures of impartiality would take a team of dozens of scribes and analysts working round the clock for years to achieve.

Mr Davie, you are thus faced with a Herculean task in rooting out bias. But as yet, you have given no indication to the outside world – other than instituting the Tweet purge – about how you intend to achieve this.

Many viewers, of course, do not believe that reform is possible, which is why recent surveys show that  the majority no longer want to pay the BBC licence fee and don’t trust BBC news. 

But the current Charter is in place until 2027, and as the agenda for our forthcoming meeting, may I suggest the following urgent action points as a basis for our discussions and instant attention?

Find top-level advisers who are genuinely independent and will give you a perspective other than the stifling wokery which has infected the Corporation at every level.  Put some of them on the internal management board so their views are heeded.

Ditch opinion polls as a way of determining whether BBC output is impartial and get properly in touch with real people out there north of Watford and west of Oxford who will tell you what needs changing.

Institute instead rigorous monitoring of BBC output compiled by independent advisers who are not in the BBC or woke bubble. This will make the constant struggle to be unbiased a properly transparent process.

Scrap the current internal complaints system and put the 350 BBC publicists (combined pay £15million-a-year plus?)  to work instead in scrutinising output to get rid of liberal bias and in ensuring complaints are properly investigated rather than being seen as an intrusion.

Abandon your defence of the BBC licence fee and the outmoded notion of universal provision and start planning now for major change to reflect changes in the media environment. It’s only when the  Corporation has to fight in the marketplace for audiences that it will become fully responsive to audience needs and preferences, and it will be all the better for it.

Make genuine ‘diversity’ an important internal and output goal without the BBC being an overt arm of the woke ‘racism’ agenda and a fanatical tick-box exercise.

Scrap in its present form the lavish BBC Academy and relaunch it as the bastion of rigorous professional integrity and training to ensure that audiences across the whole of the UK are properly served.

Inject new life into the programme-making process by ditching tired formats such as Question Time and Newsnight – both around 40 years old – and replace them with new offerings which genuinely incorporate diversity of views.

Tell those who write for the BBC that they are not on a mission to convert the audience into woke-infected zombies but rather to stimulate them with challenging, fresh material containing a variety of perspectives and views.

At every level, celebrate British history and culture rather than preaching the message that we are a nation who should be ashamed of our past, and are tarred with blood-guilt. End once and for all the Biased Broadcasting Corporation and make the first ‘B’ stand for British in the full sense of the word.


BBC STAFF ‘CAN TAKE PART IN TRANS PRIDE EVENTS’: Jamie Johnson (£ Telegraph 6/11) reported that BBC director general Tim Davie had written to staff clarifying several points about the corporation’s new rules about social media and political activities. In particular, he had asserted that there had never been a ban on taking part in Pride or Trans Pride events, or other marches and protests, but that it was forbidden for them to attend rallies organised by political parties.   Mr Davie had stated:

“What we’re asking senior leaders, journalists, producers and those of you who work in news and current affairs as well as factual journalism to do is to take care when making decisions about participating in events and not to take a personal public position, via your actions or your words, on public policy issues.

“Specifically on attending marches, it is absolutely fine for these staff to be at Pride, or Trans Pride, but it would not be appropriate to be marching with a political party, or with a group advocating specific policy changes. I appreciate that this guidance involves many of us making judgement calls about what is and what isn’t appropriate. For some this will be relatively straightforward, while others will have some questions.  To support you on this, we’ll be rolling out a programme of discussions and training on all of these issues over the coming months, and I hope you’ll contribute – as vigorously as you want.”


BBC STAFF SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS “MUST MEET OUTPUT STANDARDS’:  Charlotte Tobitt (UK Press Gazette 29/10) reported that the BBC’s new social media rules stated that staff should treat their personal accounts as if they were BBC output, complying with its strict editorial standards and not including anything which they could not say on air on a BBC programme or on its website. She added that staff had also been warned that emojis could ‘undercut an otherwise impartial post’ and that liking or following some accounts could be enough to count as sharing a personal opinion. Ms Tobitt said that journalists had also been warned against:

  • Linking to anything they had not read in full
  • Using emojis to “undercut an otherwise impartial post” whether accidentally or deliberately
  • Breaking news on a personal account – “If you have a story to break, the BBC platforms are your priority, even if it takes slightly longer”
  • Being “seduced” by the informality of social media – “Your posts about news events and issues require careful thought and editorial discipline”
  • Being “drawn into ill-tempered exchanges, or exchanges that would reflect badly on you, or the BBC”.


DAVIE ‘TO CONFIRM NEW ANTI-BIAS RULES’: Gordon Rayner (£ Telegraph 29/10) said that BBC director general Tim Davie would confirm new corporation rules which were designed to protect BBC impartiality by preventing staff from posting biased opinions on social media outlets and also by requiring them  – in a new staff register –  to declare earnings from sources other than the BBC. Mr Rayner reported that Mr Davie was expected to say that impartiality was the bedrock of the corporation and must be observed both on and off air and that he believed by forcing stars to list how much they had been paid by private companies to speak or host events, they would be ‘shamed’ into turning down such work. Mr Rayner said that the new guidance was not intended to prevent the use of social media ‘but to ensure that anyone working for the BBC uses it with appropriate regard for the BBC’s values’.   He added that a list of social media rules was being posted to staff online and would be backed by disciplinary action including sacking.

Former BBC news programme executive and Downing Street communications chief Sir Robbie Gibb (£ Telegraph 29/10)  claimed that the new measures being announced by Tim Davie showed his determination to tackle bias and ‘restore trust in the BBC’, and would demand sweeping changes throughout the corporation. Sir Robbie asserted:

‘The move is a big step in the right direction for Mr Davie, who took over the helm just last month. He has declared that restoring the BBC’s reputation for impartiality will be his top priority and in this he faces a mammoth task. We all pay our licence fee but all too often BBC output reflects the views of just one section of society – the urban, metropolitan middle classes that make up the bulk of the BBC workforce. Over the last decade, “group-think” at the BBC has distorted its output, eroding its reputation for impartiality and damaging public trust.

‘And this drive to restore what has been lost should not stop with social media or news and current affairs but should extend to the entire BBC output. For gains made in some areas risk being undermined if entertainment programmes are not subject to at least some level of editorial scrutiny. All too often, the narrow political group-think spills onto our screens in drama plots and comedy programmes.

‘It seems having a non Left-wing comedian has become a new form of tokenism. Since the rise of alternative comedy in the Eighties, the BBC has never moved culturally away from the dominance of Left-wing Tory-bashing comics. Only “anti woke” Geoff Norcott seems to have broken through this barrier. Norcott is a funny man but so too are Andrew Doyle, Leo Kearse and Dominic Frisby. You would be forgiven for never having heard of them unless you are a comedy circuit regular.

‘And how on earth did the jaw-droppingly biased Roadkill drama get commissioned? With its grotesque caricature of a Tory minister and ludicrous plot line about secret plans to privatise the NHS – surely this is the most inane, inaccurate and biased prime time drama to air on British TV.’



DIMBLEBY AND GIBB ‘NOT ELIGIBLE’ TO BECOME BBC CHAIRMAN: Edward Malnick (£ Telegraph 18/10), reported  that the job advertisement for the new chairman of the BBC stipulated that candidates must be independent of the BBC, and not employed by the corporation in the past five years, and he suggested that this would mean former BBC1 Question Time presenter David Dimbleby and former BBC head of political programmes Sir Robbie Gibb – both of whom had declared an interest in the role – would fall at the first hurdle if they applied for the post.


OFCOM LAUNCHES COMPETITION INQUIRY INTO BBC SOUNDS: Brian McGleenon (Express 17/10) reported that media regulator Ofcom had announced an investigation into the impact on the market of BBC Sounds, a corporation platform which allowed users to listen to BBC radio stations and a selection of other stations live and on-demand.  He said that the move followed the raising of concerns by commercial radio industry organisation RadioCentre and the all-party parliamentary group for commercial radio. He added that Ofcom had stated:

‘. . . there have been a number of incremental changes to BBC Sounds, and some stakeholders in the commercial radio sector have concerns about its development. The audio and radio sector is undergoing a period of rapid change due to the evolution of streaming services, including the entry of global players such as Spotify and Apple Music.

‘Audience expectations are also changing; increasingly they want to listen to the content of their choice, when and where they want to, and there is a tendency for younger audiences, in particular, to listen online.

‘The BBC has responded to these audience changes and competition by developing and expanding BBC Sounds. Given the incremental changes that the BBC has made to BBC Sounds, we consider that now is the appropriate time to take stock of the market position of BBC Sounds and assess whether there are any issues that need to be addressed, via regulatory action or other means. We are therefore seeking evidence from stakeholders about the impact of BBC Sounds on the market.’


BBC IMPARTIALITY ‘IS BEING CONSIDERED BY GOVERNMENT’:  Alastair  Stewart (£ Spectator 28/9), discussing press speculation that former Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore and former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre were being considered by Downing Street for the chairmanships (respectively) of the BBC and Ofcom,  claimed that the appointments could ‘redraw the broadcasting landscape’.    Mr Stewart also noted that culture secretary Oliver Dowden – though not commenting directly on the speculation – had told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that the sort of person he wanted for the BBC role ‘would guarantee genuine impartiality at the corporation’ and would ensure that it represented the whole of the UK, not just the metropolitan elite. Mr Stewart added that in the ‘highly competitive’ era of modern broadcasting, there was a growing sense that impartiality had become an afterthought, with journalists often taking to social media to put their own take on stories, and ‘wokery’ at the top.  He said:

‘I sense it but, more importantly, so do thousands of what Alastair Burnet used to call, with respect and affection, ‘the plain folk’. More of them voted to leave the EU; more of them voted for Conservative candidates than Labour candidates in recent general elections. Rightly or wrongly, they sense a greater warmth for Remain than to Leave on the BBC. Rightly or wrongly, they sense a greater affinity to opposition parties than to the government. In truth, it shouldn’t be either and that is the burning issue. These matters, as my quote above of Ofcom clause 5.1 makes clear, must be reported with ‘due accuracy and due impartiality.’ If they are not, Ofcom is the public’s final court of appeal. If their disquiet is not answered to their satisfaction, they have another course of action: they can cancel their TV licence. And many are now doing that.’

Mr Stewart, noting that culture minister John Whittingdale was working on a new definition of public service broadcasting and would soon launch a public consultation on it, said that the various concerns made the issues of dealing with the BBC and impartiality more pressing. He concluded that, while the speculation about Charles Moore and Paul Dacre might be kite-flying, ‘the appointment of people who take the issue of impartiality seriously and will act to defend it’, was on the agenda.


BBC MUST ‘URGENTLY CHAMPION IMPARTIALITY’: Dan Sales (Mail online 3/9) said that new BBC director general Tim Davie, in his first address to staff, had asserted that if they wanted to be opinionated columnists or partisan campaigners on social media, they should not be working at the BBC, and that the corporation needed to urgently ‘champion and recommit to impartiality’.  He had insisted his drive was about being ‘free from political bias, guided by the pursuit of truth, not a particular agenda’, and asserted:

‘If you work here, nothing should be more exciting than exploring different views, seeking evidence with curiosity and creatively presenting testimony. Making use of our own experiences but not driven by our personal agendas. I wonder if some people worry that impartiality could be a little dull. To be clear, this is not about abandoning democratic values such as championing fair debate or an abhorrence of racism. But it is about being free from political bias, guided by the pursuit of truth, not a particular agenda. If you want to be an opinionated columnist or a partisan campaigner on social media then that is a valid choice, but you should not be working at the BBC.’

Mr Sales reported that Mr Davie had also told staff that there was no room for complacency about the BBC’s future and must evolve to protect what was cherished because if current trends  continued ‘we will not feel indispensable enough to all our audience’. He added that Mr Davie believed the corporation had spread itself too thinly amid competition from streaming services, which could mean it was time to stop making some shows, to stop navel-gazing, and maybe close down some services, stating that the end had come of ‘linear expansion  for the BBC’.

Mr Sales also said that Mr Davie had made it clear that he opposed the idea of a subscription model of revenue generation in future, but had not spelled out what other options might be favoured.

Steven Brown (Express 3/9) said that Mr Davie, in his address to staff,  had said that the future of the corporation was in doubt if it could not regain the trust of the public.  He had also said that the corporation must explore new ways of delivering impartiality, including seeking a wider spectrum of views, pushing out beyond traditional political delineations and finding new voices from across the nation. Mr Brown added that he had warned staff that he would be taking action in the coming weeks, including new guidance on how to deliver impartiality, and affecting a ‘radical shift’ in the focus of the BBC  to reconnect with those who felt alienated by the corporation.

Ti Davie’s full speech can be read here.


NEW BBC DG ‘IN TOUCH WITH ORDINARY PEOPLE’: Robert Hardman(Daily Mail 3/9), stressing that he wanted the BBC to thrive,  argued that in the row over the last night of the proms, new director general Tim Davie – who had announced that the sung version of Rule, Britannia would be included –  had been handed a very simple, headline-grabbing and cost-free means of making his mark on the corporation, and in tune with ‘ordinary people’. Mr Hardman claimed that the decision would be welcomed by most ‘level-headed’ people in the country, though he said that the announcement about the change of heart over the proms was ‘both condescending and nonsensical’ in claiming that the problems had been thrust on the BBC by the problems of Covid-19  rather than being of their own making.

Leo McKinstry (Express 3/9) claimed that the decision by Tim Davie over the proms represented an extraordinary defeat for the ‘social justice warriors’, and that if Mr Davie continued in the same way, he would ‘transform the corporation for the better’.  Mr McKinstry  suggested that the new director general was the ‘antithesis of the progressive mandarin’ who had worked in the commercial world and in the 1990s had been a Conservative activist.

BBC’ SHOULD PROVIDE COMEDY THAT IS FUNNY’: Rod Liddle (Sun 3/9), noting that new BBC director general Tim Davie had reportedly suggested that BBC comedy was too ‘left-wing’,  argued that the real problem was that jokes told on air – involving often, for example, that Donald Trump had an orange face – were not funny.   He asserted:

‘Listen in now and you get ­panels of people who all think the same thing, making the same jokes, over and over. It is stultifying. Luckily, the new director-general of the BBC has noticed this. Tim Davie has said he wants a few more right-wing comics on those panel shows.’

Mr Liddle argued that the solution was not to choose comedians simply because they were right-wing, but ‘comics brave enough to tackle subjects the BBC staff think are sacred cows’.

He concluded:

‘One more thing, D-G. I hope you are including Newsnight in your list of comedy programmes that need an overhaul. And ­ridding of leftie bias. Get shot of Emily Maitlis for a start. That would give us all a laugh.’


‘CONSERVATIVE VIEWS OMITTED FROM BBC NARRATIVE’: Nicholas Burnett (The Conservative Woman 3/9), discussing BBC bias, observed that throughout the summer, in the ‘midst of racial tension stocked by Marxist agitators’ (referring to the Black Lives Matter protests), the BBC had chosen to amplify individuals’ claims of racism against the police ‘without challenge or context’.  He added:

‘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.’

Mr Burnett argued that the BBC’s pursuit of ‘more diversity’ had led now to the assumption that race, sexuality and gender were primary factors in the worth and measurement of people , and that – in effect – was bouncing back on them with reported claims of institutional racism within the BBC, with employees of the Africa service complaining that having a white manager was akin to ‘working the cotton plantations of old’.




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.’


BBC’S CONTEMPT FOR BREXIT ‘HAS DESTROYED CASE FOR THE LICENCE FEE’: Former editor of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Rod Liddle (Sun 26/8), in a comment piece,  said that he would never again pay his television licence fee because the decision by the corporation to drop the sung versions of Rule, Britannia and Land Of Hope and Glory from the last night of the proms was a sign that the BBC held middle England – regarded as ‘nasty little Englanders who probably voted for Brexit’ –   in ‘utter contempt’. He added that his former employers could not tolerate anything which did not fit in to its ‘woke’ agenda.

A Sun editorial (26/8) argued on similar lines and asserted that the BBC’s approach to the proms showed that the corporation no longer sought to represent or entertain the 50 percent of the population who had repeatedly back Brexit and the Tories.  The article said:

‘Its decision now to censor Rule, ­Britannia! and Land of Hope and Glory ought to be the last straw. Boris Johnson has rightly joined many others in condemning it. And though it is not for the PM to decide the BBC’s output, his Government can and should end its publicly funded financial model. The Beeb could turn this around. It just doesn’t want to. It dislikes much about Britain and is ashamed of our past. The BBC has destroyed the case for its licence fee. It’s time the Government stopped griping about it and took action.’

The Sun also reported (26/8) that a ‘chorus of anger’ had met the BBC’s decision to ban the words to Rule, Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory at the last night of the proms, with attacks on director general Tony Hall for his failure to intervene and intensifying calls to defund the BBC from figures such as the actor Laurence Fox.  The article said that prime minister Boris Johnson had blasted the ‘cringing embarrassment’ over Britain’s history and had demanded that the nation should stop its ‘culture of wetness’.   It was also noted that the late Dame Vera Lynn’s sung version of Land of Hope and Glory had reached number one in the iTunes chart after the singer’s daughter had urged the BBC to reverse its decision over the song, which, she said, her mother had started singing at VE Day in 1945.

Robert Hardman (Daily Mail 26/8) noted that that the BBC had also dropped the sung versions of Rule, Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory from the last night of the proms in 2001 because it had been decided they would strike the wrong note so soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York. He argued that the BBC’s reasons this time  – that it was a ‘creative conclusion’ in response to limitations created by Covid-19 simply fell apart when subjected to scrutiny because ‘safe’ songs such as Jerusalem and You’ll Never Walk Alone were being sung.

The Daily Mail (26/8) also reported that Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had weighed into the row and had asserted that the proms  were a staple of the British summer and that enjoying patriotic songs was not a barrier to examining and learning lessons about history. The article also noted that director general Tony Hall had told BBC media editor Amol Rajan that he backed the decision over the proms and had said it was the ‘right conclusion’.

It was also reported that Cat Lewis, the producer of BBC1 programme Songs of Praise had compared the lyrics of the two songs to ‘Nazis singing about the gas chambers’. She had said:

‘Do those Brits who believe it’s ok to sing an 18th Century song about never being enslaved, written when the UK was enslaving and killing millions of innocents, also believe it’s appropriate for neo-Nazis to shout, ‘We will never be forced into a gas chamber.’

CHARLES MOORE ‘COULD SORT BBC PROBLEMS’: Paul Goodman (Conservative Home 25/8), discussing the selection of the next BBC chairman in the context of the current row over the dropping from the proms of the words of Rule, Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory, said that two names stood out: Andrew Neil and Charles Moore. Mr Goodman said that Moore was a ‘high Tory’, who could not see an institution without wanting to shore it up, and Neil a ‘low one’ who couldn’t see one without wanting to tear it down. He added that Neil, as a BBC presenter and interviewer knew a lot about the corporation from the inside and would want to shake it up, but was said to be involved in the setting up of a new enterprise to rival Sky News. Mr Goodman said:

‘If a Neil appointment would have senior BBC managers heading for the doors, a Moore one would see them running for the hills’.

He argued that Moore understood Lord Reith’s inheritance and would be more than capable of applying its ideals to education, drama, the regions and programming as a whole, as well as orientating the BBC towards the nation as a whole, including the majority which voted leave in 2016, and Britain outside central London.

MICHAEL CRICK: ‘BBC NOT COMMITTED TO GENUINE DIVERSITY’:  Michael Crick (£ Spectator 26/8), noting that the BBC had committed spending of £100m on achieving diversity, suggested that they were thinking in terms of what was currently narrowly fashionable, namely, ‘gender, race and sexuality’, at the expense of the elderly, the poor, those who lived in the north and in rural areas, and those who did not go into higher education. He warned that until the definition of diversity included these people, the BBC would ‘never understand it whole audience. Mr Crick added: ‘It will grow ever more out of touch with the have-nots, the left-behinds, and the people who voted leave the EU.’

CARRIE GRACIE ‘QUITS BBC’: BBC correspondent Carrie Gracie – who had resigned from her role covering China in 2018 when she had discovered she was paid less than male correspondents – had decided to leave the BBC after 33 years (Daily Mail 26/8). Rory Tingle reported that Ms Gracie had subsequently received a pay rise and back pay, as well as sparking a corporation-wide row about pay inequalities.

BBC Bias Digest 23 July 2020

BBC ‘WRONGLY BLAMES CHURCHILL FOR INDIA FAMINE’:  Writing for The Critic magazine (21/7), Christopher Howarth accused the BBC, ‘the most powerful megaphone in the land today’, of airing ‘a one-sided attack’ on Winston Churchill.  He wrote that a feature, by the BBC’s Yogita Limaye, which was broadcast on Radio 4’s Today programme (20/7), only included voices critical of ‘Britain’s most famous politician’, all concurring in presenting him as ‘reprehensible’ and ‘racist’. Mr Howarth added that the Radio 4 piece focused on the devastating 1943 Bengal famine, and held Winston Churchill ‘responsible’ for it. Mr Howarth argued that it reflected the BBC’s ‘obsession’ with ‘a particular version of history based on…poisonous, chronic racial essentialism’, projecting a ‘narrative of British evil and oppression’ . He added that it was not ‘worthy’ of the BBC to report it ‘as fact, without any semblance of balance’.

Rory Tingle (Daily Mail 23/7) reported that historians had attacked the BBC for an ‘unbalanced’ BBC One News at Ten report (on 21/7)  by Yogita Lamiye  claiming that Churchill was responsible for the ‘mass killing of three million people’ in the 1943 Bengal famine.  Mr Tingle said that in the item – part of a series examining Britain’s colonial legacy’ – contained claims from Indian academics that the then prime minister had framed policies which made him a ‘precipitator’ of mass killings and that he  could have  prioritised ‘white lives over Asian lives’ by not sending relief.  He added that LSE academic Tirthankar Roy had pointed out that the weather-induced famine had been due to the Bengal government’s unequal distribution of food and its failures to invest sufficiently in agricultural development. Mr Tingle said the BBC had responded that the report had contextualised Churchill’s actions  in relation to his overall war strategy, and that they ‘stood by’ the story.


VETERAN RADIO 2 PRESENTER ATTACKS BBC MANAGEMENT STRUCTURE: A report by Matthew Moore in The Times recorded BBC Radio 2 veteran Ken Bruce’s interview with David Lloyd’s Radio Moments Conversations podcast (£ 21/7). Mr Bruce, host of the Britain’s most popular radio programme, told Mr Lloyd that the BBC is ‘a frustrating place to work’ and that he sometimes thinks ‘a cull of managers would be no bad thing’, except that, ‘somehow’, whenever such a cull happens, ‘they come back within a few years’. Complaining about licence fee money being spent on the Director-General’s car, Mr Bruce asks, ‘How much does Radio 2 need a policy unit dealing with government?’.


BBC ‘SHOULD MOVE BEYOND BIG CITIES’: In a piece in The Times headlined ‘Time to move the civil service out of London’ (£ 22/7), Ben Houchen noted that, ‘too often’, for organisations including the BBC, ‘the north seems to mean Manchester’, arguing that ‘real change’ will come when such  organisations broaden out and also base themselves outside big cities.

In a similar vein, Jim Waterson, media editor of The Guardian (22/7), quoted former Culture Secretary, now Government minister, John Whittingdale saying that it is ‘absolutely essential’ for the BBC to ‘try to sustain support for the licence fee in all these communities [people who live in smaller towns and rural areas] and not just serve the metropolitan elite in London and Manchester. I am very much aware that communities like Cleethorpes begin to feel that the BBC is not providing sufficiently for them’.


JOHN WARE ‘CONSIDERING SUING JEREMY CORBYN’: BBC Panorama presenter John Ware (Daily Mail 23/7), noting that former Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn had said that his party’s decision to pay damages to him over an edition of Panorama which had investigated anti-semitism in the party was ‘political’ rather than legal, said he had been advised by his legal team that the statement was defamatory and potentially actionable. Mr Ware also said that ‘pro-Corbyn conspiracy theorists’ were persisting in spreading falsehoods about him on the internet. Mr Ware asserted:

“It is broadcasters like the BBC that are trying to hold the line on standards, not the self-appointed ‘media activists’ who make up their own rules and whose self-righteousness leaves them with dangerously little self-doubt. If we want fair and truthful journalism to prevail over deceitful propaganda on the internet, we must hold their authors to account. If we continue to let them get away with it, truth will not be the only casualty. Democracy itself will be wounded – perhaps fatally.”

BBC Bias Digest 15 July 2020

BBC CUTS ‘WILL HOBBLE WEBSITE’:  Charlotte Tobitt (Press Gazette 15/12) said that cuts in BBC England (providing local and regional journalism) of £25 million by the end of 2022 would lead to the loss of 450 jobs, with a BBC ‘insider’ also claiming  that the BBC News website would ‘cease to function in its current state’. Ms Tobitt said that the insider believed that the axing of a central web team in Birmingham that acted as a quality control filter, together with numerous operations staff, would mean that there was no longer the capacity to produce a properly comprehensive regional news service. She also reported that the BBC had responded to the criticism by stating that news generated by BBC England would become more localised and more efficient.


BBC ANDREW NEIL SHOW AXED:  Paul Withers (Express 15/7) said that as part of BBC cuts in journalism which in total would lead to the loss of 520 jobs, the Corporation had announced that it was permanently axing the Andrew Neil Show, which had been taken off air at the beginning of the pandemic lockdown. He added that Mr Neil would continue to present on an occasional basis the Politics Live programme and that the presenter was in talks about a new BBC One interview show.  Mr Withers claimed that ‘furious Britons’ were now calling for the licence fee to be scrapped in response the news as this was evidence that ‘the lefties are getting their way by stealth’.


BBC TO INVESTIGATE STAFF ‘TWITTER ADDICTS’: David Jordan, the BBC’s director of editorial standards, had told the Lords communications and digital committee – in a hearing about the future of journalism – that the ‘seductive’ Twitter website had sucked a number of its people into becoming ‘addicts’ who then broke editorial standards in ‘egregious ways’ by posting their own content (£ Daily Telegraph 15/7). He asserted that staff had not upheld the Corporation’s editorial standards and sometimes disciplinary action had been taken. Mr Jordan also confirmed that Richard Sambrook (a former BBC Director of News)  was investigating the use of Twitter by BBC employees.

Matthew Moore (£ Times 15/7) also reported that David Jordan had told the committee that BBC staff had become addicted to the ‘toxic’ Twitter platform, and warned that the desire by some to ‘go viral’ was undermining the Corporation’s reputation for accuracy. Mr Moore added that Mr Jordan had assured the committee that not all BBC journalists read The Guardian, but had acknowledged that the broadcaster had succumbed to liberal-left groupthink in the past. He had said: “We had issues, for example, about tracking the rise of Euroscepticism. Across the BBC, did we do that adequately? No, we didn’t. We had issues  around tracking the growth of concern about immigration”.  Mr Moore also said the committee had heard evidence from media minister John Whittingdale, who had said that metropolitan broadcasters including the BBC had failed to understand the strength of feelings on certain issues, including Brexit, outside the capital.