There is no more uplifting sight for those who love to see the boot boys of the Fourth Estate getting their comeuppance than the inmates of the Baby Shard bunker in full wailing-and-gnashing-of-teeth mode, as they are this morning. The Sun and its motley assemblage of not really very talented hacks and pundits is bereft, as news emerges that their great hero, Culture Secretary John Whittingdale, is bust.
But all the bluster - and hell, was there a lot of that in the past few weeks - was for nothing, as the promised White Paper on the future of the Corporation turned out to hold no big shocks for the Beeb. The licence fee would remain, and would even rise in line with inflation. There would be no revelation of how much its “talent” was paid, unless the annual sum exceeded £450,000 (not £150,000 as thought). No programs would be rescheduled.
The anguish of the Murdoch shilling-takers was laid bare: a furious editorial “Beeb Bottlers” ranted “WHY was our Prime Minister, faced with a decision as important as the BBC’s future, intimidated into craven surrender by a bunch of ranting left-wing luvvies? For years the Tories have threatened to act over the corporation’s gargantuan waste, blatant left-wing bias and apparently unstoppable expansion …Yesterday they bottled it”.
Non-bullying political editor Tom Newton Dunn admitted “VIEWERS will still not be allowed to know exactly how much the BBC pays its fat cat stars, after ministers reveal a humiliating climb down … The BBC’s editorial independence from any government meddling will also be guaranteed in its new charter … Programme editors’ complete freedom will be enshrined in the corporation’s new rules”.
There was more: “Mr Whittingdale will also confirm a series of other climb downs today, such as not moving the 10 O’Clock News and leaving the BBC’s giant £3.7bn annual budget largely intact”. Faithful Murdoch retainer Trevor Kavanagh fumed “Limp reforms in new BBC charter are white flag of surrender from Cameron to the march of smug Leftie luvvies” and talked of “the baked-in bias of the Guardianistas”.
So what happened? That the Sun is not willing to tell its readers, but fortunately all is set out in an article by Media Guardian’s highly sound Jane Martinson. The Government has a majority of just 12, there was the possibility of a Tory revolt featuring at least 20 MPs, Director General Lord Hall-Hall is well respected in Downing Street, and Young Dave personally intervened to curb Whittingdale’s enthusiasm. That is all.
Rupert Murdoch thought he had the Tories in his pocket, to the extent that they would hobble the BBC on his say so. He was wrong. The executive limo to Heathrow’s over there, Rupe. Don’t let the car door hit you on the way out.