That's a most unfortunate hand gesture
The idea of a unitary board to replace the BBC Trust was welcomed by Director General Lord Hall-Hall, but he had concerns about the way Whittingdale planned to use it, and last week “set out his concerns about plans for the chairman, vice-chairman and four non-executive directors of the proposed BBC board to be appointed by the government”. In fact, Whittingdale wants to appoint all the non-executive directors.
As the board would comprise 14 directors in all, and only three of those would be from the BBC, with the rest being non-execs, the effect would be to give the Government of the day total control of the Corporation - the BBC’s editorial direction would be set by that board. At the Guardian, Peter Preston has observed “Whittingdale, solemnly advising BBC1 which programmes he approves of, is the day and night manager no one would choose”.
Even the Telegraph - no fan of the Beeb - has run a piece today telling “Helen Boaden, the BBC’s director of radio, will liken proposals made by John Whittingdale, the culture secretary, to an Eastern European-style government takeover of the corporation, as she accuses the minister of a ‘cycloptic’ obsession with ‘needlessly diminishing’ the BBC’s services, ‘to the benefit of its competitors’”.
Those competitors would, of course, include Sky, and with the Tories beholden to Rupert Murdoch to an unhealthy degree, the prospect of stitching up the Corporation in exchange for continuing favourable coverage in the Sun and Times is ever-present. Whittingdale’s excuse, to airily muse “I don’t think the government appointing the BBC non-execs would compromise their independence”, is just crap.
Concerns over BBC reporting have already been voiced recently, especially the way in which the Government was given a clear PMQs advantage by the timing of a junior Labour minister announcing his resignation live on air. The fixation by the host of The Andy Marr Show (tm) on whether senior Labour figures are Marxists does not help. What we do not need is the Corporation turning into a propaganda arm of the governing party.
Whittingdale’s idea is a non-starter. He should show some common sense and bin it.