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HomeBrexit WatchThe BBC and Ofcom – May’s allies-in-chief over Brexit sabotage

The BBC and Ofcom – May’s allies-in-chief over Brexit sabotage


One of the many major issues of concern during the Brexit process has been that the BBC has been left totally unchallenged and totally unfettered in terms of impartiality.

The result is that it continues to churn out industrial quantities of pro-EU bias – exactly as it has done for at least the past two decades, as is evidenced in this Civitas paper.

Karen Bradley, Theresa May’s first culture and media secretary, was one of her closest allies in the Cameron years, and she (and May) left the Corporation totally alone, despite extensive evidence from immediately after the 2016 referendum that the BBC was doing its best to sabotage progress towards Brexit. Matt Hancock, Bradley’s successor in the media portfolio, is apparently less of a May flunkey, but he registered zero concerns about Corporation bias during his brief tenure other than making sure the diversity agenda was pursued to its maximum extent.

After the Chequers revolt in July, May appointed Jeremy Wright – a Remain-voting criminal law barrister and government legal adviser – as the new culture and media incumbent. So far, the best that can be said about his approach to the job is that he has adopted a low profile. He told Press Gazette on his appointment that he was going to ‘leap wholeheartedly into the digital world’, but what that means remains to be seen.

Damian Collins, as chair of the Commons culture and media committee, could cause a stink about BBC bias if he chose – as did John Whittingdale when he held the equivalent post – but he has made it abundantly clear that he is a Remain fanatic and seemingly approves of the propaganda being broadcast.

In and among this dereliction of duty, Mrs May appointed Robbie Gibb, a BBC apparatchik who was formerly the head of the Corporation’s Westminster operation, to her most senior communications role. He is now using his extensive knowledge of the BBC machine to pursue her agenda of destroying any chances of a meaningful Brexit.

Labour, of course, though deeply critical that the Corporation is not being sycophantic enough towards it, also wants the barrage of anti-Brexit propaganda emanating from the Corporation to continue, and so is not prepared to take any formal steps to complain about it.

The new BBC Management Board, which was supposed to hold the Corporation more rigorously to account through a tougher complaints regime, has proved itself totally useless except – like Matt Hancock – in pursuing the diversity agenda. And Sir David Clementi, the latest chairman, who took up his post in spring 2017, has turned out to be arguably the lowest-profile holder of the post in Corporation history.

When the new BBC Charter came into effect last year, Ofcom assumed new powers in regulating the BBC as complaints appeals backstop. But most of the members of Ofcom’s Content Board have strong BBC connections, and its main ruling to date on the BBC – about pro-Remain bias on BBC1’s Question Time – was a farcical exercise in terms of both methodology and pro-BBC bias.

What can be done? The BBC still commands the biggest news and current affairs broadcast audiences through its huge licence fee resources, and as the Brexit process is increasingly sabotaged by Theresa May and her senior civil servants, she has the Corporation as one of her chief allies.

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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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