WE are waiting to hear who will be the new Ofcom boss after Sharon White steps down to become chairman of the John Lewis Partnership next March on a near-£1million salary.
Despite her high-profile CV it cannot be said Ms White enhanced either the accountability or prestige of the BBC during her ‘watchdog’ term of office. It was clear from the start how she planned to exercise her role: the imposition of ever-more identity compliance and politics on the BBC. What she promised – tougher, stronger regulation to ensure diversity – was what she achieved. Unfortunately it was never to mean diversity of points of view (if only!) rather diversity of workers reckoned by gender, origin and race, and where necessary the quotas to make sure it happened.
By this measure her time in office has been an undoubted success. Whether having the BBC trawl its staff personal data for their ‘identity’ credentials was what Ofcom was really appointed to ensure did not apparently trouble Ms White.
When it came to fundamental and national interest questions of BBC accountability, namely the BBC’s longstanding Brexit bias, Ms White had her eye nowhere even near the ball and showed no interest. Yet, as David Keighley wrote on TCW last year, ‘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.’ At the same time the 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 in pursuing Ms White’s diversity agenda. 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. Most of the 13 members of Ofcom’s Content Board. 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.
The appointment of Mrs White’s successor, in the hands of the Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Nicky Morgan, will be an indication of Boris Johnson’s intent – and trustworthiness. The Corporation was Mrs May’s chief BRINO ally. Will Boris call this out? We are not holding our breath.