THE surprise appointment of ITV News chief executive Deborah Turness as the BBC’s news boss has no doubt been planned by Corporation director general Tim Davie as a radical coup, and a move to disarm those who are seriously concerned about BBC impartiality.
The appointment reeks of PR gloss and hype. How can someone from the ‘independent’ commercial sector be tarred with the same brush of bias levelled at the BBC by Tory politicians?
To mark her elevation to the biggest news job in the UK media, in charge of a quoted 6,000 staff and a budget in the hundreds of millions, Turness is no longer plain director of news (as all previous occupiers of the post were) but Chief Executive Officer, with a salary of £400,000 a year. That’s £60,000 more than her predecessor, Fran Unsworth, who retires at the end of this month.
Davie, of course, is on a mission to persuade Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries to increase the £159 BBC licence fee – a government decision on it is due imminently – and to leave the Corporation unscathed in the mid-term Charter review which is taking place in the spring.
The press release announcing the appointment is groaning with self-congratulatory, inflated claims about the brilliance of the ‘powerful, trusted’ BBC news brand and its importance in national life. No mention, of course, that this is an organisation which rejects virtually all complaints of bias or error (only 18 were upheld last year by the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit), and which blocks any challenge to its alarmist climate coverage with a stonewall response that ‘the science is settled’.
Despite the hype, do not be deceived that this appointment will herald any significant change. Turness, working in tandem with ITV chief executive Carolyn McCall, a former Guardian Media Group chief executive, has run an ITV News which is every bit as ‘woke’ as the BBC in its coverage of topics such as the pandemic and is responsible for the appalling bias which is the hallmark of Channel 4 News.