Sunday, June 23, 2024
HomeBBC WatchDavid Keighley's BBC Watch: Bradley must battle Auntie's arrogance

David Keighley’s BBC Watch: Bradley must battle Auntie’s arrogance


These are frustrating times for those who want an end to BBC bias.

Post-Brexit, there has been a concentrated deluge of pro-EU, anti-Brexit broadcasting. The primary intent seems to be to force a second referendum and keep the UK in the EU. Evan Davis, as ever, is among those leading the charge.

The highly biased coverage of post referendum affairs shows that the Corporation is totally out of touch with the 17m who want out. Their version of ‘understanding’ them is to go to the backstreets in the most deprived areas of the country and patronise the locals.

But the malaise goes much deeper. The reporting of Hinckley Point saga last week showed that yet again, their only agenda in the thorny issue of energy supply is that of the Green Blob.

In the BBC universe, fantasy ‘climate’ targets (espoused by the High Priests of EU-funded Greenpeace) to keep temperature rises below 1.5 degrees centigrade are considered far more important than the urgent need to keep millions of pensioners and young families warm at affordable prices.

Add to that their extreme reluctance to attribute terrorism to anything other than ‘mental illness’, and the BBC’s bloody-minded drive to undermine whenever possible British culture and tradition, and the overall picture of bias reaches crisis proportions.    There is a rot at the heart of the Corporation’s outlook that only an Augean cleansing will achieve.

John Whittingdale’s White Paper on BBC reform was published back in early May. Thanks to George Osborne’s meddling over the licence fee, it was sadly a fudge. Instead of effective change, including funding by subscription, which as an Institute of Economic Affairs paper has adroitly pointed out, would have genuinely opened the Corporation up and made it sensitive to viewers’ needs, it perpetuated the licence fee for another decade.

The other changes were thoughtful and significant but nowhere near enough. There was scrapping of the failed Trustees, budgetary scrutiny by the National Audit Office, and the creation of a new, souped-up Executive Board made up of a mixture of BBC executives and independent directors (including the chairman).

Further changes involved overall regulation by Ofcom on the performance and delivery of services, and as the body of appeal in matters of impartiality. This was the most glaring mistake. An end to BBC bias will only come about when the Corporation content is opened up to genuinely independent scrutiny. Ofcom is run by former BBC staff, with their same outlook, and so in this respect the White Paper was a total dud.

All this was thrown into turmoil after Brexit when Whittingdale was unceremoniously fired in the Cabinet shake-up. In his place Karen Bradley – elected as an MP (for Staffordshire Moorlands) for the first time only in 2010 – was elevated to Cabinet level from her previous (and only government) role as ministerial support for May in the Home Office.

There’s nothing wrong with injection of new blood, but it means that the Culture department is now being run by an accountant with no experience of media management at all and very little too, of what Bill Clinton called ‘change-making’ at government level. She is an ingénue when it comes to the Gormenghast-politics of the BBC.

The BBC, by contrast, has years of experience of seeing off challenges to its so-called independence, and indeed has battalions of staff trained to pursue that end. This does not bode well at all. Director General Lord Hall and his main henchman in this department, James Purnell – himself a former Culture Secretary – must currently be feeling like cats who have found the cream.

Bradley, of course, may turn out to be a tough cookie, and there is no rule that says a minister of state must have previous experience of the subject matter of his or her portfolio. Indeed, a fresh eye and an outside perspective can be a catalyst for genuine change.

However, broadcasting is not just any brief, and the BBC not just any adversary. Politicians of every stripe are star-struck and mesmerised by the Corporation. They are terrified that saying the wrong things will incur Auntie’s displeasure and disfavour.

This, disappointingly, became sharply apparent this week when the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee published with very little fanfare its report on its reaction to the Whittingdale White Paper. The findings? They have tamely accepted most of the fudged changes, turning their fire only on a relevantly minor issue, the high level of pay of some BBC talent.

Most tellingly, there’s not a peep about complaints handling.

On that basis, as things stand, the Corporation could well be off the hook yet again (unless Bradley surprises us all). It looks that for another decade the BBC public will be saddled with the licence fee, the deckchairs will be re-arranged slightly. And BBC bias will carry on relentlessly.

(Image: FCO)

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David Keighley
David Keighley
Former BBC news producer, BBC PR executive and head of corporate relations for TV-am. Director of News-watch.

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