It is time for fundamental change at the BBC

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James Knell
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With the appointment of a new Director-General, Tim Davie, change is hopefully afoot at the BBC. I say ‘hopefully’ because, well, this is the BBC. Yes, Britain’s iconic national broadcaster has sadly lost its way in recent years. With a series of blunders, from U-turns on Rule, Britannia! sung at Last Night of the Proms to skewed reporting, allegations of Brexit bias and a fixation on ‘diversity’, Auntie’s gone off the metaphorical rails. The BBC must now restore trust with the people who pay for its existence – that’s us folks. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you as they say.

The need for change is profound – something thankfully recognised by both the government and the Beeb’s ex-employees. In March, the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said that the BBC needed to do more to reflect the country’s “genuine diversity of thought and opinion”. Here at the CCS, we agree. Add to that reflections made by John Humphreys, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s flagship Today programme for over three decades. Mr Humphreys stated that his former employer had “tried to mould the nation into its own liberal-left image”, and staff continue to “confuse their own interests with those of the wider world”. 

What is really concerning is the composition of the people at the top. The BBC’s senior management ranks reads like a who’s who of the capital’s Remainer liberal left. And sadly, like tends to hire like. Last year, the former television presenter, June Sarpong, was appointed as the BBC’s first Director of Creative Diversity. Ms Sarpong is likeable and talented; she was also a prominent Remain campaigner and was on the board of the campaigning organisation, “Britain Stronger in Europe”. Given that a number of independent reports into the BBC’s stance on Euroscepticism concluded that the institution was biased in favour of the Remainer cause, it is sad but perhaps not surprising that the BBC did not seize the opportunity presented by the newly created Director-level role by hiring an individual less associated with the London elite to counter perceptions of bias.

For an organisation that trumpets diversity any moment it can, executive-level management is staffed by the least diverse people imaginable. Overwhelmingly privately educated, large numbers having worked for left-leaning think tanks, unions and political campaigns. But within the confines of the Broadcasting House metropolitan monoculture, the colour of your skin is far more important than your actual views or opinions. Who cares about those?

Mr Davie’s record suggests he has largely bought into the woke narrative. The ‘Davie Report’ recommended that by the end of 2020, the Executive Committee and Divisional Senior Leadership Teams should each have at least two BAME members. It’s probably a step too far to suggest that hiring the best person for the job makes more sense. 

The BBC has a duty to provide and present (impartially) content that encourages critical debate and thinking. This in turn encourages those who watch the BBC to question their own beliefs and views – that is good, right and healthy. But in order to do so, this woke moral righteousness that pervades the Beeb’s programming must stop – whether it’s Israel, Brexit or the recent BLM protests. All views must be fairly presented and represented.

In July, BBC Sounds produced an episode of the No Country For Young Women podcast in which presenter Sadia Azmat asked: ‘How can white women not be Karens?’ Amelia Dimoldenberg’s advice to white women was to ‘read some books’ and ‘don’t be so loud’ whilst academic Dr Charlotte Riley remarked that Karens were ‘completely unwilling to accept that their whiteness is a privilege’ and that they should ‘get out of the way basically’. When the BBC regards such outrageous, patronising drivel as ‘debate’, alarm bells ring. This is the point at which material which should provide for reasoned discussion becomes lore. You happen to believe that white privilege exists? Fine. Where’s the panellist who doesn’t?

If the BBC’s politically correct groupthink is not challenged, then it is possible that these extreme views will become received wisdom. The BBC is in a unique and privileged position to set the tone of debate in this country. That tone should be a respectful one where the value of a true diversity of views are promoted and encouraged. Instead, woke has poisoned the BBC’s impartiality – public pressure and criticism should be unrelenting until we see fundamental change.

James Knell

Research Director

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