David Keighley’s BBC Watch: Independent oversight means stuffing the jury with ex-lackeys

At the heart of the BBC’s new Charter – due to be formally adopted within the next fortnight – is that the new ‘independent’ court of appeal for complaints against the BBC will be the Ofcom Content Board.

The end of the BBC being totally its own judge and jury on these matters is supposed to herald the dawn of a new, more rigorous impartiality regime.

A criticism of the BBC Trustees in this respect was that far too many of them were ex-BBC employees, such as (in the current line-up) Mark Damazer, the former Controller of Radio 4, and Richard Ayre, a former Controller of BBC editorial standards.

So how does this compare with the Ofcom line-up? Astonishingly, nine of the 13 board members have spent several years of their careers in direct employment by the Corporation, and one, Mary Anne Sieghart, is currently paid by them for semi-regular work as a presenter.

This is a complete list of the BBC connections of the Content Board:

Aled Eirug was, for 14 years, BBC Wales’s head of news and current affairs and a member of BBC Wales’s Board of Management.

Zahera Harb is now a university lecturer in journalism at City University, but earlier in her career as a journalist in the Middle East was a correspondent for the BBC Arabic service. Her first job in the UK was at Cardiff University, which has strong links to the BBC, and is commissioned by them to do most of the Trustees’ ‘impartiality’ reports.

Andrew Colman was, for 13 years, head of news and current affairs for BBC Northern Ireland, and was editor of all BBCNI’s election programmes between 1986 and 1998.

David Levy worked for the BBC from 1982 until 2007, and from 2000-2007 was Controller, Public Policy, which involved him leading the Charter renewal negotiations. He was Head of Policy Development and chief adviser and head of European Policy (1995-2000),

James Thickett was Controller of Business Strategy at the BBC, responsible for ‘all the BBC's performance and measurement functions’, as well as leading editorial and business process change across the organisation. He was involved in the BBC's Charter review process and Greg Dyke’s 'Making it Happen' culture change project.

Janey Walker, currently Deputy Chair of the Board of Governors of Brighton University, began her career at the BBC and worked there as a journalist from 1982-94. She then joined Channel 4, where she became managing editor for commissioning.

Nick Pollard began his broadcasting career in BBC Television in 1977 and worked there for around five years before joining ITN and then Sky News, where he became Head of News. He led the inquiry into the BBC’s handling of the Newsnight investigations of Jimmy Savile (appointed by the BBC).

Robin Foster, an economist, worked at the BBC from 1993 to c.2001 in ‘senior strategy positions’ and was responsible for developing its online and digital channel services.

Andrew Chitty has worked in software production at the BBC and has produced BBC2 programmes. More recently, he participated as a board member in David Puttnam’s report A Future for Public Service Television: Content and Platforms in a Digital World. This strongly defended the licence fee.

Mary Anne Sieghart, the journalist, has worked principally on newspapers, but also extensively over many years for the BBC as presenter of programmes such as Radio 4’s Start the Week, Profile, One to One and Beyond Westminster.

Those who do not appear to have employment links with the BBC are:

Tony Close, who is currently Ofcom’s Director of Content Standards. He joined Ofcom in 2003, and before that worked for the Broadcasting Standards Commission (which Ofcom superseded). There is no trace of his earlier career.

Professor Philip Schlesinger holds the Chair in Cultural Policy at Glasgow University. He has written about using communications to expand the legitimacy of the EU. During the Scottish referendum on independence, he warned that an independent Scottish broadcaster (envisaged by the SNP) would be inferior to the BBC.

Dame Lynne Brindley is a former CEO of the British Library (2000-12), and spent her career in that sphere. A connection with the BBC is that in 2009, she signed a wide-ranging deal with the BBC involving collaboration over digital rights and access to archives. Roly Keating, a former BBC executive, succeeded Dame Brindley as CEO of the British Library.

Overall, therefore, the Content Board has ‘BBC’ etched through it like a stick of Blackpool rock. Looking at the various affiliations of the members – for example Andrew Chitty’s membership of David Puttnam’s group or Zahera Harb’s board seat on the so-called the Ethical Journalism Network (which advocates that the Syrian war was caused in part by climate change) – it is not hard to see that they are likely to share the same biased mindset as their former BBC colleagues.

Joe, Smithies, a spokesman for Ofcom, has told TCW: “Ofcom is scrupulously independent and our track record shows that. Members of the Content Board, which plays an advisory role for Ofcom, have experience across the broadcasting industry including Sky, BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and S4C.”

Mr Smithies also pointed out that James Thickett has now left the Content Board. He has been replaced by Graham Mather, who, he says, has not ever worked at the BBC."

David Keighley

  • James Chilton

    Some self-evident truths should be written to the BBC Charter: that the BBC exists to disseminate lefty-liberal propaganda; to pay enormous salaries to its executives and “stars”; to gouge money from the public by extortion; to inflict drivel on viewers and listeners which it pretends are entertainments; to annoy the entire world by its broadcasting of untrammelled yapping 24/7.

    • The Debunker No 2 BS

      Perhaps you actually mean that the BBC charter was secretly replaced by a new charter, which says : “We are your betters and so it our duty to tell YOU the public what to think”
      Sub paragraph : “…We give studio keys to our friends whilst excluding voices we don’t like”
      “We bang on and on about some PET topics : Calais, Trans, Black Lives…whilst burying other important matters the public are too sensitive to think about eg News Cover the Rotherham sex gang trial results ONCE, then never mention it again.”

      • Ravenscar

        “PET topics : Calais, Trans, Black Lives…whilst burying other important matters….”

        Yers fergit a few;

        MORE Gimmegrants!
        more EUrope!
        Brexit is evil, Brexit wil cause famine, war, pestilence and anything else we can lay on it,
        we hate PUTIN and Trump! WE LOVE HELLARY! and bill too!
        eco lunacy stiffing the UK taxpayers lovely jubbly!
        and the welurve the UN green agenda… greenery will be best for all of you and be the death of you too! ps….what about our pensions investments – gone green or OIL?

        Islamification4UK, Christianity and Israel; the root of all ills,
        bake off, bake off and extra bake off – it will never go away,
        luving luvvie comedians;
        Alan Yentob,
        Owen jones,
        John Tiernan,
        Seumas Milne,
        gary Lineker,
        Fiona Bruce,
        Nick Clegg,
        RED ED Miliband,
        Gollum.
        Jo Coburn,
        Matt Baker,
        Chris Packham,
        Black,
        Shukman,
        That other global warming beguiled d*ckhead…..Harrabin.
        All of Araby so they tell it at the beeb is such an enlightened place and 1000’s of other assorted tales of fantastic delusion.

        China is a democracy.

  • Colkitto03

    In concerned that if Trump wins there might not be sufficient counselling in place for BBC staff. Coming on the back of Brexit and all. As a short term measure they could borrow some fainting couches from the Women’s Equality Party.

    • James Chilton

      lol²

    • Tricia

      I am so hoping Trump wins – it will be wonderful watching them choking on the words as they have to inform us of the news. I wonder if we will have post-Trump information. I mean we are continually having post Brexit and despite Brexit for breakfast dinner and tea.
      Trump for President! In fact anyone but Shrillary!

      • Politically__Incorrect

        The BBC would probably want a second election to decide exactly what kind of Trump the Americans should have. They would want it on the basis his campaign misled everyone, and besides, everybody who voted for him would be a “racist bigot” and therefore their votes should not count.

        • therealguyfaux ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

          Would they then seek to drag out the time before he was to be inaugurated, and leave Obama in, as a “temporary” solution, as the Repubs would do nothing to hasten the process, even as they are bleating that “The voters spoke!” and “Trump means Trump!”

        • Vindpust

          The Today Programme made a direct comparison between the sort of people backing Trump and Brexit voters a week or so back.

          I didn’t bother complaining as previous complaints have always attracted a blank, self-righteous denial from the producers that they could be in any way biased.

  • Leo Savantt

    The BBC was originally incorporated by the state because the powers that be were so afraid of free speech being disseminated by the people via the then new radio. Nothing much has changed, except that it has become even more biased than was originally intended.

  • Politically__Incorrect

    Slightly off-topic but I heard that NatWest have closed the bank account of Russia Today UK, presumably in an attempt to silence the broadcaster. Whatever one thinks of RT UK, it provides a fitting counterpoint to the stale PC output of the BBC and other UK broadcasters. I’m a regular viewer of RT, not that I agree with everything they say. RT also has its own political agenda, but so does every broadcaster. Having alternative broadcasters like this is important to those of us who actually want to question what we are being told and are not prepared to simply swallow the views of our established broadcasters and the political elite behind them.

    • Mojo

      NatWest have reopened the account as Russia threatened to close BBC accounts in Russia. BBC wNt more propaganda coverage in Russia which is at present being denied. I also watch RT. Their Crosstalk programme is excellent and far above anything BBC, ITV or channel 4 provide. Yes RT has its agenda but so do every media outlet. However, the very professional and up to the minute reporting is far the best. RT was the only station that reported the French strikes and German Banking crisis during the Referendum campaigns whilst our media focused on trashing the Leave campaign. They were the first also to talk openly about the grooming in Rotherham. Long before our media opened up about it

      • The Debunker No 2 BS

        Em the account was never closed and NW is quoted as saying they never sent a letter, but did send one to an RT supplier, which quoted a close date for Dec 12th (for that supplier)
        RT is a broadcaster whose output is often propaganda which damages the reputation and economy of the UK.
        BBC is a broadcaster whose output is often propaganda which damages the reputation and economy of the UK.

  • Hampsteadpinko

    Good. Glad to see that there may be people who won’t be rolled over by politicians.

    • ratcatcher11

      The BBC are politicians except they have never stood for office.

      • Owen_Morgan

        A bit like Saint Shami.

  • ratcatcher11

    The government know that putting a truly independent person on the board of trustees would cause an almighty row when they stepped in to stop the pro Remain propaganda output currently in full swing. I would volunteer to be a trustee and I promise the proverbial would hit the fan if I was on board. Not much chance there then.

  • RWP

    The BBC shouldn’t be treated as THE public service broadcaster, only as A public service broadcaster. Rivals should be able to tender for the right to takeover their public service broadcasting responsibilities.

  • Eliot Banks

    There’s no reason to have a tv license anymore. Cancelled our direct debits and now use now tv, bt sport, Netflix and catch up for my entertainment needs, all internet based, better content and works out similar in price to the annual license fee, I can also cancel anyone of the paid services when I want. You’ll have to do without iPlayer but that’s part of the beauty of it.

    With this in mind, the BBC’s days are numbered

    • Mojo

      Haven’t had a licence for a number of years. Don’t miss the Tv at all. Great that it is no longer a focus in our sitting room. Yes catchup is good but I actually find I am using iplayer and the like less and less

      • Andy

        Hardly surprising: there is f*** all to watch.

        • True enough! Since I can watch either, I think British TV is slightly better than US, but sadly most of what is there is what I chose not to watch years ago on US TV. As for the BBC, well, there are a few interesting shows on channel 4, and I do enjoy BBC Norfolk radio, mostly.

    • I found that I never watched live TV at all, just DVds; so I dumped the TV. I watch DVDs on a laptop connected to a projector and a bluetooth soundbar. Stunning to watch on your full living room wall.

  • David

    I am sure that all these people were selected following a random search on the streets of the entire UK – surely ?

  • The Debunker No 2 BS

    Geographically diverse NOT ! Super London-centric
    Dr Zahera Harb | City, University of London
    James Thickett, Ofcom , London
    Janey Walker, London/Brighton (expert on diversity)
    Nick Pollard, London
    Robin Foster, London
    Andrew Chitty, London (his corp has 2 BBC board members, 1 BT, 1 C4)
    Mary Anne Sieghart, Hammersmith, London
    Tony Close, London
    Dame Lynne Brindley, British Library, London
    Dr David Levy, Director Reuters Institute , Oxford
    + 1 token from each Scot, NI, Wales
    I’m guessing the entire board are based well away from 35m-40 millon of the UK population
    (I didn’t check for family connections yet)

    • Colkitto03

      Thanks for researching! depressingly what we all suspect

    • Andy

      There be not life beyond Watford Gap.

      • Derek

        Surely there is no intelligent life north of Watford Gap according to the metropoles?

    • Simerall

      The Establishment.

  • Snoffle Gronch

    I decided not to squander any more money on the lousy BBC, and decided the least I could do was explain things to their chief hand-wringing sponger.

    Dear Mr Hall

    Why I am not wasting any more money on a Television Licence

    You won’t recall my name, but I am one of those unfortunate citizens taxed these many
    years to keep the BBC in clover. I have recently taken the opportunity to review the Corporation’s output, and concluded that there is absolutely nothing that I value, need, or care to pay for.

    I do not need the acres of boring commercial grade trash BBC1 slops up; nor do I want to be bombarded with advertising about the BBC’s very modest broadcast achievements or unique source of funding (what is unique about legalized extortion?); your obvious, mirthless comics
    make me cringe; I have no use for your biased, patchy, inaccurate news reporting, nor the bigoted dullards who simper their way through its delivery; I have no interest in that dim, sanctimonious metropolitan patronizing that characterizes the BBC’s constant numbskull editorializing; and I am already heartily sick of your mumbling, bumbling token presenters. I am forced to conclude that the BBC has long outlived its usefulness, and its funding is an absurd 1920s anachronism.

    So having reviewed the rules, I have disconnected my television sets from their respective aerials. It is inequitable that I should be burdened with a tax if I am to watch other broadcasters, but I will willingly forego all TV broadcasting rather than contribute the least financial support to you, Yentob, Boaden, Purnell, or the rest of your inept, talent-free, self-seeking cronies.

    Yours faithfully

    It won’t do any good, because the BBC is beyond criticism, and Mrs May’s government is determined to defend these toads to the hilt. But I feel better.

    • Great Briton

      What about Bake Off?

      • Snoffle Gronch

        I’d considered telling Hall to bake off, but in the end decided to remain formally polite.