Tuesday, November 24, 2020
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Tim Davie and a BBC scandal in the making

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THERE’s a lot of talk about BBC presenter Naga Munchetty having been caught ‘moonlighting’, but I am aware of a bigger outrage involving a very senior BBC executive, on which I shall elaborate below. 

First, Munchetty. She is paid £195,000 a year to host the corporation’s breakfast TV programme (that’s comfortably more than the £150,000 Boris Johnson is paid to run the country, incidentally) and has also recently trousered a hefty sum from NatWest for hosting some ‘webinars’, hence today’s coverage of her earnings.

Who can say why NatWest was so keen to secure Munchetty’s services for this corporate gig? What is more certain is that she will likely be upset to have been singled out and put under the microscope in this fashion. I’m sure everyone’s hearts will be bleeding.

New BBC chief Tim Davie is said to be keen to crack down on BBC employees like Munchetty who cast around for earnings on top of their publicly-funded salaries. 

He is quite right to do so. In these straitened times particularly, it is plain unfair that someone who has become ‘famous’ off the back of the BBC should use that ‘fame’ to top up their publicly-funded salary.

The £205,000-a-year Editorial Director of BBC News, Kamal Ahmed, also springs to mind. In February, he pocketed £12,000 for a 40-minute appearance at an event organised by the hedge fund Aberdeen Standard Investment. After the press got hold of the story, Ahmed returned the money.  

But another case that’s received no publicity so far is that of June Sarpong. A year ago – under Tony Hall’s regime – the former ITV Loose Women panellist was made the BBC’s first-ever ‘Director of Creative Diversity’.

However, in a move that’s hard to imagine any other publicly-funded organisation agreeing to, her salary remains under wraps. Unlike the pay of every other BBC executive in the country, Sarpong’s wage has not been published.

Reading between the lines, she must be paid at least £150,000 by the BBC, for whom she works a three-day week. The rest of the time she takes commissions from M&C Saatchi Merlin; Burberry; and also writes books for Harper Collins as well as running her company, Diversify International. 

In the last two days Ms Sarpong, an accomplished self-publicist, has been busy advertising her non-BBC engagements and upcoming appearances. Are we to believe she takes no payment for any of these? 

Nonetheless, and for all Davie’s protestations about moonlighting, it was the BBC’s social media, self-promoting ‘celeb’-style activist Diversity Editor, Ms Sarpong, that he chose to be interviewed by for his first BBC All Staff address that she was delighted to further promote:

Sarpong is said to oversee an increasingly powerful unit within the BBC, which recently announced it would spend £100million of licence fee money on increasing ‘diversity’. And, according to her interview with him, it’s this ‘need’ that Mr Davie appears to be doubling down on with a staffing target of at least 20 per cent black, Asian and ethnic minority – against the current reality of 13 per cent in the population as a whole. A policy which he defines as ‘celebrating modern Britain’. 

Are newspapers too afraid to ask probing questions about her activities, including her naïve at best and dangerous at worst, promotion of revolutionary Black politics on social media, fearing they will be labelled ‘racist’ if they do so? Or is it just that nobody has noticed this glaring oversight yet? If Tim Davie is not aware of the Sarpong case, it’s time he had a look at it. I sense it has the makings of a scandal. 

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John Smith
John Smith is a journalist.

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