Socialist Worker

Blancmange Broadcasting Corporation?

by Roger Protz
Issue No. 1889

IN CASE you missed the advertisement and would like to apply for the job, the BBC is looking for a new chairman. He or she will work a four-day week and the salary is around £80,000 a year- nice work if you can get it.

The chairman's job is vacant because the last holder of the office, Gavyn Davies, resigned following the Hutton report's assault on the BBC. Instead of standing up to Hutton and the government, and defending the independence and integrity of the BBC's news reporting, Davies apologised for the corporation's errors and was then taken away in his chauffeur-driven limousine.

To recap, BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan got his story about the government 'sexing up' its case for war against Iraq 98 percent right. Blair lied 100 percent about Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction. The result? Lord Hutton castigated the BBC, Gilligan, Davies and director general Greg Dyke resigned, and Blair and his fellow warmongers scuttled off to the cleaners to have the whitewash removed from their suits.

Don't expect a firebrand to replace Davies. The government chooses the chairman, with the ultimate decision made by culture secretary Tessa Jowell. She will be looking for candidates who now sit in the House of Lords, or run top universities, or who have worked as spooks. The current acting chairman of the BBC is Lord Ryder, chief whip in John Major's Tory government. It was Ryder who made a second, grovelling apology to the government for the BBC's alleged 'errors'.

This pathetic blancmange is just the sort of person Tessa Jowell would like to beat the BBC's reporters into line and stop them broadcasting stories critical of the government. In case Ryder is too weak and pathetic to take the post, there's always one of his current governors, Dame Pauline Neville-Jones. She is a former intelligence services spook, and a woman so posh she thinks sex is something the coal comes in.

The government has nothing to worry about. Even before a new chairman is appointed, BBC bosses are clamping down on hard news. The Radio 4 flagship Today programme has turned its back on investigative reporting. Its most memorable piece last week involved a 'talking' bullfinch that refused to speak on air.

The poor bird was probably terrified it would be ticked off by Lord Hutton for saying, 'Who's a good boy, then?' in case it was considered to be pro-BBC propaganda.

BBC television news has adopted the role of uncritical supporter of any government nonsense.

Last week the 10 O'Clock News led its bulletin with a report of Prince Charles's sudden visit to troops in Iraq followed by meetings with government ministers in Iran who are currently rigging the results of an impending general election. The blatant political stunt of sending Prince Charles abroad in order to divert attention from Blair's problems at home was too much for even ITN and Sky News. Both refused to give top billing to the prince's activities, but the BBC reported his trip in the reverential tones usually reserved for a death in the royal family.

The BBC will be at the mercy of the government until control by deeply conservative governors is replaced by a system based on an elected executive drawn from the unions at the corporation, and viewers and listeners. Until that happens, things can only get worse. Tory MP Michael Portillo is keen to become the next BBC chairman. BBC staff who struck in defence of Greg Dyke may yet need to take to the streets again.

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Sat 21 Feb 2004, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1889
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