The BBC should pay the price for its blatant anti-Tory and more importantly its anti (small c) conservative bias in the upcoming Charter Review.
But under John Whittingdale, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport , who just weeks into the job has revealed himself to be just another wet Tory, I fear it won’t.
An alarmed friend posted me a hard copy of the BBC Charter Review public consultation document last week. This weekend I read it and also noted the list of the individuals selected ‘because of their expertise’ to Whittingdale’s advisory group on this matter.
I can only think that they were handpicked by Whittingdale’s civil servants to ensure a smooth passage for the process. (How soon ministers go native!) The idea put by Lord Patten, a former chairman of the BBC Trust, that they constitute “a team of assistant gravediggers”, who would help “bury the BBC that we love”, is risible. Of the two known names, one began his career as a BBC trainee (Stewart Purvis), went on to head ITN and is now Professor of Television Journalism at City University London. The other is a professional quango queen, Dame Colette Bowe. The idea that they, or any of the other unknown businesspeople delighted to find themselves appointed to the great and the good, will be up for rocking the (BBC) establishment boat beggars belief.
Had Whittingdale really been determined to fire a shot across the Corporation’s bows he would have come up with a very different list and a very different overview of the ‘problem’.
The presence of former Today programme editor, Rod Liddle, for example would have sent some shivers down the BBC spine.
Instead we have a consultation process that is ignoring the issue of the BBC’s editorial standards (or lack of them), its blatant bias and growing ineptitude – sustained and pushed by annual £3.7 billion revenues from the licence fee.
This surely, as well as the BBC’s adaptation to and unfair exploitation of the new commercial technological landscape, is what matters.
Yet the review document assiduously avoids the issue of its liberal left leaning producers, editors, and reporters – and its overpaid (to the tune of millions) presenters, who share the same prejudices summed up in the re-election drama – The Casual Vacancy.
It is not as though the BBC’s ‘attitude’, as Leo McKinstry has so aptly described, was not there on show on election night for Mr Whittingdale to see. It was and with a vengeance. “Typically that duplicitous old bully, dodgy dossier complier and Labour zealot Alastair Campell was given a front row seat to spout his partisan views … viewers caught a glimpse of of the incestuous political bubble that operates at Westminster, as correspondents Nick Robinson and Laura Kuenssberg rhapsodied about the wonderful personal qualities of Ed Balls – in reality another bully and social engineering zealot – after he had lost his seat…..It was as if the Corporation, in its despair over the collapse of the Left, believed the while nation shared its anguish. Nothing could have been further from the truth, and once more the BBC missed the real story – the remarkable and historic triumph of conservatism. ”
Memories are indeed short. Not least Mr Whittingdale’s. He seems to have forgotten this and other gross abrogations of responsibility (remember Jimmy Savile and Newsnight?) and just at the moment the BBC licence fee comes under his scrutiny.
Has he in a matter of weeks accepted as inevitable the political bias that has become more apparent and more blatant with each passing year, which BBC executives have shown not the slightest inclination to address?
They, as Rod Liddle recently pointed out, have been given succour in this delusion by the lefty journalsist Charlotte Higgins, “who in her new book on the corporation, suggests, idiotically, that the BBC is biased to the right”. Don’t tell me Whitto has fallen for this bilge?
Surely he is not taken in by the pompous verbiage of one Rona Fairhead and her extraordinary complaint about the select committee questioning BBC editorial decisions.
Surely he cannot be in awe of her when Margaret Hodge was not. The question she rightly asked was whether this former chair of HSBC’s audit committee was fit to continue in her role heading the BBC Trust? She suggested not. This should be an ominous time for Auntie but there is no sign of Rhona shaking in her shoes. Au contraire – she is taking Parliament on.
Whittingdale does not just need to work out what the BBC is there for, he needs to issue an ultimatum. The BBC must accept criticism of its politically correct, victim driven mindset. It must acknowledge its wrongdoing over the EU and euroscepticism (an apology on this would be welcome). And he must tell it, it is on probation as far as the referendum is concerned. Woe betide if it is not impartial.
Of course, I am not holding my breath he will.
The last Charter was granted in 2006 when Labour was still in power. It seems pretty ironic that the one moment the Tories have the power to put the BBC in its place, they are backing away.
Like Rod Liddle, I fear a fudge.
But it is still not too late for Whitto to extricate himself from this mess of his own making.
He can make some additional appointments – some proper critics of, and experts on, the BBC – to his group. He could do a lot worse than David Keighley and Rod Liddle.
Then he must threaten to renew the Charter on the most temporary basis only. I would suggest for one year.
It is the only hope.