Tim Davie, current BBC DG
What has also been true of the BBC in the years since is that the Corporation has been subjected to more than occasional political interference: Greg Dyke was effectively forced from the Director General’s chair after a backlash from the Blair Government, and before him, Alasdair Milne had his resignation forced upon him at the behest of Margaret Thatcher. Now the Beeb is once again under pressure from the Government.
So there is an almost obsessive attention to impartiality, or what is deemed to be impartiality by current DG Tim Davie. Staff have had their use of social media severely constrained; the sensitivity of management to attacks by the Tories, and especially their hangers-on within the media class, is palpable. A once great organisation has become as yet another frightened rabbit before the headlights of its opponents’ juggernauts.
That this has led the Corporation astray was laid bare in an appearance before the House of Lords communication committee, as the Guardian has reported. “David Jordan, the BBC’s director of editorial policy … the man who enforces its editorial standards … said the broadcaster should ‘represent all points of view’”. That’s not what impartiality means.
But do go on. “Jordan said everyone should expect their views to be appropriately represented by the national broadcaster - even if they believe the Earth is flat … ‘Flat-earthers are not going to get as much space as people who believe the Earth is round, but very occasionally it might be appropriate to interview a flat-earther. And if a lot of people believed in flat Earth we’d need to address it more”. No. Just no. The earth isn’t flat.
Impartiality is not, repeat not, REPEAT NOT, “both sides-ing” every issue. That way, you end up with “Here’s an emeritus professor of epidemiology to make the case for Covid-19 restrictions, and to oppose him, here’s Allison Pearson (or Julia Hartley Dooda. Or Darren Grimes. Or a Magna Carta wacko)". Jordan’s remarks have not been well received.
Ian Dunt was unimpressed. “This is the BBC's director of editorial policy. It suggests a catastrophic breakdown in basic editorial judgement, grounded in a failure to recognise the notion of objective truth”. Writer Ian Betteridge put it yet more directly.
“BBC EdPol (Editorial Policy) has never been more of a mess. The first value on the list for the BBC is ‘Trust is the foundation of the BBC. We’re independent, impartial and honest’. How is Jordan's statement in line with that? When a senior journalist sits in front of MPs and tells them that if more people believed in a flat earth, it would ‘address it more’, they have forgotten what journalism is for. The truth is not a popularity contest”.
He has called on Jordan to resign. Meanwhile, Davie has added “If we’re sensing there is genuine concern about an area or we’re getting more complaints in an area, that will help inform our decisions about where we want to focus our internal reviews”.
What about facts? Or is it really one big popularity contest now? This is not good. At all.
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by becoming a Patron on Patreon at