Right-leaning media watchers have an excellently developed ability to select facts that bear out their worst fear: that rotten lefties are taking over our broadcasters, and especially the BBC. So when anyone connected to a right-leaning paper, or the Tory Party, works for the hated Beeb, this is either ignored, or classed as “balance”, while anyone remotely left-leaning is the cue for frothing and ranting.
This has been superbly illustrated as the BBC overhauls its news gathering and reporting capability: James Harding arriving from the Murdoch Times as head of news was virtually ignored. But when Ian Katz became editor of Newsnight – a BBC2 show which frequently garners little more than a million viewers – his coming from the deeply subversive Guardian was greeted with horror.
Moreover, the presence of Chris Patten at the head of the BBC Trust, Daily Mail contributor John Humphrys, and Andrew “Brillo Pad” Neil, is brushed aside as a mere inconvenience. So the scene was set for Newsnight – yes, it’s that show again – to announce that its new economics editor was to be Duncan Weldon. The screams from the right were long and loud.
Why so? Ah well. Weldon had stood as a Labour council candidate in 2010! He had once advised Harriet Harman! He had been an economist for the Trades Union Congress! His blog had criticised the Coalition’s economic policy! He had a beard! OK I made the last one up, but give it time. As Sir Sean nearly said, I think we got the point. The rant squad went into action.
James Chapman at the Mail was as dependable as ever: “a former Labour adviser with barely any journalistic experience ... Tories expressed astonishment ... it did little to dispel the impression that there is ‘a revolving door’ between the Left and the BBC”. Harding did not merit a mention. Neither did the recent appointment of Kamal Ahmed, former Sunday Telegraph business editor.
So who were the Tories expressing astonishment? These consisted of one anonymous “source”, one MP (Andrew Bridgen once again on duty), plus the loathsome Toby Young. So not much astonishment, then. And the alleged “long line” of left-leaning Newsnight economics editors appears to consist solely of Paul Mason. That did not stop the Telegraph joining in the frothing.
Once again, the right-leaning part of the press plays both sides of the field: on the one hand, they knock Newsnight for its small audiences, then when the show takes on board someone they don’t approve of, it becomes one of the most important programmes broadcast anywhere in the world. This is not only hypocrisy in action, but also a complete waste of time and effort.
After all, Harding signed off on Weldon’s appointment. Not that they’re telling you.