This is a guest post from Craig Byers of Is the BBC Biased?
Tom Mangold’s Mail on Sunday piece headlined “I fear that my beloved BBC’s bizarre obsession with a toxic culture of wokeness will end as a fatal act of self-harm” ought to matter to the BBC because Mr Mangold isn’t just any old BBC veteran. He was Panorama‘s lead investigative reporter for many years and has always been held in high esteem. So for him to speak out in such an outspoken way about “the greasy slope down which [the BBC] is sliding faster every day” is really something, and a major sign of just how bad things have got recently.
While expanding on his excoriation of Yogita Limaye’s “biased, partial, unbalanced, filled with spite and venom” anti-Churchill report (see previous post), he adds the words “Never mind the truth”. I doubt he would never the phrase, of course, but essentially what he’s saying is that it was ‘fake news’.
‘What on earth has happened?’, he wonders. After all, the BBC’s charter remains “unequivocal” on its statutory commitment to impartiality. Well, he says, the “holy contract” is now “well and truly broken”.
He seems to believe that Ms Limaye’s late evening report, given the full backing of the News at Ten and Huw Edwards’s “authority and credibility”, was a bone deliberately thrown to the BLM movement.
And the BBC’s doing it, he says, because of its “bizarre obsession with youth, diversity and the ever-growing pressure of woke argument” and because BLM – and “the Twitter trolls, the social media addicts, the young, the immature and the often daft” – have become “the BBC’s recruitment and audience target.”
Why this “‘threatens to become [the BBC’s] final act of self-harm” is because such people are a “minority audience”.
He also quotes another wise old head, Trevor Phillips, saying that “the increasingly woke behaviour by the Corporation is endangering the central justification for special treatment, which is its universal reach.”
All of which is very true. The BBC is alienating its core audience in pursuit of a small demographic that probably won’t be watching it regardless. It’s a sign of the state the BBC’s in at the moment that it doesn’t even seem to see the folly of its position.
The present situation with over-75s having to pay the licence fee from next Saturday is relevant here because 66 Conservative MPs signed a letter to Tony Hall last week objecting to the BBC’s decision over the licence fee, and added: “We question the need for the BBC to allocate the enormous sum of £100 million on diversity, which with strong management could be achieved for minimal cost”.
Tom Mangold in this article makes a related point: “Tony Hall has found £100 million in an ever-ready slush fund to increase diversity in the BBC. Meanwhile it gets rid of talent such as John Ware and Jane Corbin as permanent reporters from Panorama, presumably to save a bob or two”.
Why is the BBC splashing out such huge sums on diversity? After all, as the Observer observes today, it’s devoting £12m of its commissioning budget “to making diverse and inclusive content” for the next three years, and devoting £100m of the current television commissioning budget to “on-air inclusivity”, and bringing in a mandatory off-screen target for “20% diversity across the networks for new commissions” from April 2021? Because it’s signalling to its new target audience.
Tom Mangold goes on to quote Trevor Phillips saying, “The BBC has to recognise social change, sure, but it is not the institution’s role to lead it.” Well, yes, but that’s not how the young Turks who have been silently taking over at the BBC see it. To take just one example, on being appointed the BBC’s first LBGT correspondent Ben Hunte said “There are a lot of marginalised voices that need to be given a mouthpiece” when he was appointed. He clearly meant that he intended to be that “mouthpiece”. There’s a lot of that about about the BBC now.
Wonder what the bulk of the BBC will think about this? I’m guessing a huge chunk of them are too far gone to care what one of the old hands thinks, especially if it’s in the Mail on Sunday. But some might take it as a proper, serious wake-up call. If they love the BBC as much as Tom Mangold does, what are they going to do about it?