AFTER years of ignoring the serious criticism of the BBC’s failure to be impartial or objective, two days after his retirement the corporation’s elder statesman John Humphrys decides to lift the lid on his former employer.
It suffers from an institutional liberal bias, he declares in his memoirs A Day Like Today, accusing it of being a ‘Kremlin-style’ organisation and out of touch to boot. He says its bosses ‘badly failed’ to read the nation’s mood on Europe and ‘simply could not grasp’ why anyone voted Leave.
Now he is ‘free to speak’ and no longer has to ‘submit to the BBC Thought Police his subversive musings’.
So why on earth did he tolerate it for so long (his BBC career was some 40 years) or indeed why did he not resign, especially given the BBC’s destructive and disastrous framing of the Brexit debate? How could he swallow what he’s had to on a daily basis? We are entitled to ask – and to question his integrity.
I still cannot quite describe my feeling of bemusement and rising rage as I read Mr Humphrys’s retirement revelations yesterday morning with my coffee. It was enough to make me choke.
Here is a man still working years beyond the average time of retirement (he is 76) on a salary somewhere between £400,000 and £410,000, who at the end of his last Today programme told listeners it had been his huge privilege to work for this wonderful organisation, then posed for Radio 4 Today team group hug photos. Yet he has stayed silent on all the issues that mirror the critique we have been making of the BBC on these pages for the last five years, and by News-watch for the last twenty. A critique that the BBC has ignored or discounted and which Mr Humphrys, on the surface anyway, took no interest in and was happy to see the BBC dismiss time after time.
Now it turns out that he was totally aware of his employer’s bias and corrupt standards of journalism all along, but was never brave enough to take a stand.
I hardly need point out that no one ever compelled him to work for the BBC, or threatened to shoot him, or beat up his family if he dared think about leaving on principle. State police were not standing outside the Today studio door.
In his own words, the organisation he was happy to work for, and essentially be the face of, has a ‘great fear . . . of the politically correct brigade and the most fashionable pressure groups – usually from the liberal Left, the spiritual home of most bosses and staff’. It has an ‘institutional liberal bias’. Some of us, John, have been telling you that for years. Blaming its recruitment process as overwhelmingly geared to middle-class, often privately educated arts graduates is just stupid, chippy and a diversion. Does he think those from comprehensive schools or sink estates will be less prejudiced or more capable of the independent reasoning needed by decent editors and journalists?
‘Groupthink’ is conveniently also to blame for bias. Indeed, but Mr Humphrys must know, with even a basic knowledge of psychology, how it works. It happens when it is allowed to happen, when individuals with the clout and influence of Mr Humphrys fail to challenge it on the job – not after the event.
How convenient now for him to say that because of that groupthink, immigration and Euroscepticism became two important areas where the BBC ‘failed so badly to spot a change in the nation’s mood’.
He writes: ‘The morning of the EU Referendum was different. Leave had won – and this was not what the BBC had expected. Nor what it wanted. No nods and smiles when the big bosses appeared. No attempt to pretend that this was anything other than a disaster. Their expressions were as grim as the look on the face of a football supporter when his team’s star player misses the penalty that would have won them the cup.’
But if he noted the BBC bosses’ horror at the result of the referendum, what on earth has he been doing these last three years at the forefront of Today’s daily dose of Project Fear? It’s a bit late to be reporting this ‘inside story’ now.
I could say it was to protect his pension, but despite the money-making bombshell revelations of yesterday, I rather doubt that. I suspect it’s a need at the end of his career to get himself on the side of the angels. And history will not look back kindly on the subversive if not treacherous BBC.
I see an ageing man hanging on to his very special identity and public persona that the BBC conferred on him. The mantle of the grand old man of the BBC must be hard to give up. He hung on in there, talented and engaging and yes, a great broadcaster.
But what a far greater man would he be had he not submitted to his paymaster, and what a difference he might have made to the hand dealt to the people of Britain – an ever-deferred Brexit or a worse-than-not-leaving BRINO – had he made public earlier the BBC’s egregious bias against Brexit.
And where in this window into the world of BBC bias was his own mea culpa – his own confession of his failure to take the behemoth on?