Monday, April 15, 2024
HomeBBC WatchDavid Keighley’s BBC Watch: Ofcom subs bench is as biased against Brexit...

David Keighley’s BBC Watch: Ofcom subs bench is as biased against Brexit as its appeals panel


Ten green bottles…

Two weeks ago, BBC Watch on TCW highlighted that large numbers of the Ofcom Content Board – 10 to be precise, out of 13 – which under the new BBC Charter regime will become the court of appeal for breaches of impartiality on the Corporation’s airwaves, had strong connections with the BBC.

Shortly after the blog appeared, Joe Smithies, Ofcom’s head of communications, wrote to point out that James Thickett, a former BBC Director of Business Strategy, was no longer a member, and had been replaced by Graham Mather, who, said Smithies, had definitely not worked there.

Nine green bottles….?

And, of course, not to be forgotten in the defenestration equation is that Bill Emmott, the EU fanatic who made The Great European Disaster Movie with a little help from the BBC (and EU), was mysteriously removed from his post as chairman of the Content Board after his EU favouritism was highlighted on TCW.

But hang on a second. Who is this Graham Mather? And how ‘independent’ is he? Googling confirms that he does not seem to have worked for the BBC.

But what about EU connections? That’s a crucial part of the independence-of-mind equation, because the BBC’s post-referendum deluge of anti-Brexit bias continues unabated.

And in the run up to the EU referendum, under EU-fanatic Lord Patten’s chairmanship, the BBC Trustees published the Prebble report, which purported to give the Corporation’s EU-related output a clean bill of health – but did no such thing. It was deeply a skewed, flawed whitewash from beginning to end, as this Civitas paper written by News-watch shows.

This was exactly the bias that the new BBC Charter is designed to fix, and Ofcom’s role as a completely independent arbiter of impartiality is vital.

So back to Mr Mather. Turns out that he was formerly a member of the Monopoly and Mergers Commission – but more crucially, for at least a decade he has also been involved in a body called the European Policy Forum, and is now its President.

And what is the European Policy Forum (EPF)? Like so many of the pro-EU bodies, it sounds almost cosy and definitely neutral. It isn’t.

Exhibit A is that it was founded by Lord Tugendhat of Widdington,  who as Christopher Tugendhat became one of the UK’s first EU Commissioners in the 1980s and now 35 years on, under the banner of the European Movement, is battling with – among others – Paddy Ashdown, Chris Patten, Kenneth Clarke, Lord Hesletine and Neil Kinnock to reverse the referendum and keep the UK in the EU.

Exhibit B is that in the run-up to the referendum, and its aftermath, the EPF has held (and is holding)  a series of seminars on the EU referendum. Perhaps predictably, there’s no sign on the guest list of Nigel Farage.

Rather, the key speakers at these events include Nick Clegg, Peter Mandelson, George Schopflin MEP (a key member of the EPP group in the European Parliament), and Sir Phillip Lowe, formerly Director General of the European Commission Energy and Competition directorates. There’s oodles more – the point is that none would seem to be an enthusiast about Brexit.

Oh, and EPF also has published a handy guide: European Consumers: The Benefits  Europe Brings. It’s an essential read for EU fans everywhere.

Andrea Leadsom, it should also be pointed out, has also been on the guest list – but her name sticks out like a sore thumb, and she was talking in her capacity as former energy minister.

And so there it is….nine (BBC-linked) green Ofcom bottles hanging on the wall, and now they have been joined by a nice, EU-loving chum. Essential qualities for judging impartiality at the BBC.

(Image: Garry Knight)

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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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