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The BBC needs to sack the suits Timid and out of touch, it is churning out banal bulletins and screwing up digital output

The Orwell statue at the BBC's entrance. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Orwell statue at the BBC's entrance. Credit: Wikimedia Commons


September 18, 2020   6 mins

It is easy to get infuriated by the BBC’s annual league table of its highest-earning stars. Zoe Ball is an engaging presenter, but should she be paid £1.36m for chatting away on the radio after losing a million listeners? Why do we pay people almost half a million pounds to read an autocue on the evening news? Does Alan Shearer deserve almost £400,000 a year for his dull insights on Match of the Day? What has Ken Bruce done to see his pay package suddenly shoot up by £105,000?

Yet there are far more profound issues facing the BBC than the annual furore over presenter pay. For the institution confronts an existential crisis: it is funded by a tax that defies logic in the modern media world, faces threats from far-richer rivals, and is being assailed from all sides for perceived political bias. It looks like a wounded beast, limping along and licking its wounds while clouds of vultures circle hungrily overhead.

Tim Davie, the new director-general who must grapple with how to protect the state broadcaster in an age of streaming, social media and intensifying culture wars, was greeted in post by a ridiculous row over the singing of Rule, Britannia! at the Proms. This fuss showed the toxicity of so much of the debate surrounding the corporation at this time of unprecedented financial, commercial, political and social challenge. The BBC must deal with hostility from Downing Street in a country that is becoming ever more divided, while trying to find ways to appeal to younger generations that, unlike my own, lack any special affection for Auntie.

It is almost a century since the BBC was founded by Lord Reith with his mission to “inform, educate and entertain”. The birth came in October 1922, exactly one week after the arrival of my own father. Yet my son’s generation sees the ÂŁ157.50 licence fee as an absurd anachronism when they spend so much time on Amazon, Netflix, Spotify and YouTube — and they scoff at the idea of watching a news broadcast at a fixed evening time amid so many digital offerings. The BBC’s annual report showed people aged 16 to 34 consume only seven and a half hours of its content each week.

The director-general was right to declare “we have no inalienable right to exist”, in his debut speech. Yet for all the BBC’s faults — and there are many — I believe it is a force for good in our nation as we saw at start of the pandemic with its calm, public-spirited response. It is also a crucial part of British soft power and beacon for many people trapped under dictatorship. The licence fee can be seen as cheap when its daily output on radio, television and online costs us one-fifth of the price of a coffee in major cafe chains. But such is the BBC’s unique place in British life that everyone has a view on what it is doing wrong. And mine is simple: it has lost its bottle.

Ever since tangling with the Blair government over Iraq, the BBC has been cursed by tragic lack of confidence as it stumbles from crisis to crisis. Its reaction to each scandal, its response to each savaging, has been to calcify a bit more under tiers of timid managers who are terrified at being perceived as out of touch, condemned by some noisy lobby group or attacked for frittering away resources. The latest annual report reveals the number of these senior managers rose again with an astonishing 106 of them pocketing more in pay than the Prime Minister. Yet the legacy of these swarms of suits is an organisation in funk: stymied by fear, stifled by bureaucracy and suffering clear loss of nerve on news. This makes the corporation harder to defend as it cuts budgets, churns out banal bulletins and screws up digital output.

The BBC employs 6,000 people in news, which includes more than twice the number of journalists as the country’s most successful newspaper group. Yet how often do its main television news shows reveal a domestic story they have not been spoon-fed? Genuine scoops and jaw-dropping stories are far more likely to come from papers, despite their ever-smaller teams and shrinking sales.

Bland evening bulletins on television are fleshed out with analysis of mind-numbing banality designed to avoid causing offence followed by dreary vox pops rigidly controlled to ensure balance. Reporters are sent to stand pointlessly outside empty buildings at night for dramatic effect. Highly-paid editors pontificate but say little of substance. Even the BBC news website that was once strong — if unfairly undermining commercial media — has become a stodgy mess rarely worth the effort of trying to navigate.

There is much talk of diversity as the corporation tries to reflect the country. This is right and proper, both in personnel and issues. Yet attempts to step out of their comfort zone often look patronising. Such is the lack of editorial confidence that when Newsnight tried a segment this week on migration, I was shocked to see it failed to challenge repugnant extremist views — presumably since scared of looking like ‘metropolitan liberals’. At the same time aid is seen as sacrosanct by BBC bosses in bed with Comic Relief and running their own development charity while there is no room for nuance on critical issues such as tackling climate change. “We’ve signed up to the Greta Thunberg agenda,” said one well-known presenter. “I’m not a denier but we’ve lost the ability for any debate around this issue.”

Boredom has become a bigger problem than bias. There are, of course, still fine exceptions to the flow of sludge. The foreign reporting and world service remain strong, their reports and analysis often offering real insight — perhaps since the journalists and editors are freed from fear of upsetting domestic factions. Its recent documentary series on Iraq was stunning, even if downplaying British involvement, while it has delivered big scoops on the atrocities inflicted on Uighurs by Beijing. Yet there is no current Africa or China editor, although one-third of the global population live in these places. “We cover the world through David Miliband,” joked one senior journalist, such is the ubiquity of the charity chief on the BBC — although needless to say, the former foreign secretary is never asked why he pockets almost one million dollars annually in the poverty industry.

I have sympathy for the political team, whose diligent efforts to cover Westminster spark torrents of bile on social media. Panorama has carried out brave and strong investigations, Victoria Derbyshire and reporters such as Jayne McCubbin on BBC Breakfast offer incisive reporting on neglected social issues while the main radio news programmes still cling to Reithian ambitions. But compare the key evening television bulletins, or Newsnight and Channel 4 News — and the BBC too often comes off second best. Meanwhile its flagship Question Time has descended from serious political discussion into a shouting match in search of applause on social media.

Now as new rivals plan partisan news operations and Rupert Murdoch’s Times launches its own radio station, the BBC’s top brass has decided this is just the moment to tarnish some jewels still in its tatty crown. They are axing their remaining national radio reporters, telling them to reapply for a smaller number of jobs as multi-tasking television, radio and digital reporters. This may mark the end not only of the careers of some stalwarts but also the organisation’s era of world-leading specialist radio journalism. Yet there is no attempt to rationalise sprawling news output, although this might deliver bigger savings to invest in better journalism.

I was astonished to learn that Radio Four’s Today programme, the most influential radio news show in the country, no longer has any dedicated reporters. I asked one radio insider what would happen if it wanted to mount a serious investigation into an issue and was told that either this would be carried out by one of the presenters, who may not have a background in hard news let alone sufficient time, or they would have to bid for a reporter from a pool, who would then be expected to offer a variety of reports on the issue for other BBC platforms. Clearly the bean counters and suits care less about news, let alone exposing dodgy behaviour by powerful bodies, than on their misconceived vision of value for money.

Many other issues confront the BBC. Most British citizens turn to the broadcaster for drama, entertainment or comedy rather than its news. The corporation made the mistake of partnering challenger firms such as Amazon and Netflix on programmes, helping to oil their path into the valuable world of British creativity and production. Now these behemoths threaten to devour their host like voracious parasites as they splurge vast budgets on buying up talent.

Maybe the solution is to focus on content rooted in this country rather than outright competition; if something is good enough, it will still sell as proved by The Fall, the crime drama set in Northern Ireland and now a Netflix hit, or Channel 4’s Derry Girls. “If you tell a story well enough you can get a hit because truths and good stories are universal,” said one top UK producer. “But if you try to do everything and reach everywhere you end up nowhere.”

After 30 years in journalism, however, my focus is on news. So here is my advice for Davie: show some confidence, take risks and revive your floundering news operation. Journalism is not about ticking boxes. It should tell stories and cause waves, sometimes even offence, since it is about revealing things powerful people and vested interests seek to hide — and this is why they turn on critics with such force. So sack most of the suits, silence the shallow pontificators and unshackle the editors by giving them more freedom and responsibility. If they deliver dross, miss scoops or fail to connect with their public, find bolder editors and better reporters. Otherwise the BBC news operation will roll downhill as audiences dwindle further.

Every day staff entering Broadcasting House pass a statue of George Orwell. The new director-general needs to remember this great man’s words, that truth is a revolutionary act in an age of deceit, if he wants the BBC to retain support and relevance.

Surely it is better to reassert that noble desire to inform, educate and entertain by sparking debate over enlightening news stories than wave the white flag amid hostility? Otherwise those of us who believe in the BBC are left defending an organisation that is simply indefensible. And those wishing it dead may be among the most distraught when it has gone.


Ian Birrell is an award-winning foreign reporter and columnist. He is also the founder, with Damon Albarn, of Africa Express.

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Geoff Cox
Geoff Cox
3 years ago

This author seems to have completely missed the point. The BBC has despised its most ardent supporters for years. To them, we are white, middle class, racist Brexiteers. It’s ok to uncritically cover the armed wing of the BLM, but the moment a protester with the Football Lads Alliance waves to someone in an upstairs window, it’s a fascist salute.

Then there is the pc culture – ever present in the news, drama, comedy, CBBC and CBeebies.

What was once a cohesive, conservative force for social good has been turned into the broadcasting wing of the Guardian and their anti-white, anti-male, anti-British woke agenda.

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago

“I believe it is a force for good in our nation as we saw at start of the pandemic with its calm, public-spirited response” – Really? The BBC’s coverage since the start has been a national disgrace, whipping up paranoia and hysteria

Kathryn Richards
Kathryn Richards
3 years ago
Reply to  Derek M

And whipping up anti-government feeling at every turn.

Graham Smith
Graham Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Derek M

The BBC reporting on Covid is a disgusting, national disgrace. Fear mongering from day one and asking no questions of govt policy. I do more investigative research than the whole of the BBC.

Andrew Best
Andrew Best
3 years ago

The BBC thinks it is ok to say
Kill all whites
Well done, very funny, everyone is cracking up by such wit and humour, on no hold on, that’s just racist rubbish.
The BBC is destroying itself day by day,
Good.
Cancel your TV licence
Free your mind
Spread the word

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

Well I wouldn’t stop at the suits. The entire organisation needs to be taken down, not least because a recent survey revealed that the British people now trust Al Jazeera’s news more than they trust the BBC’s news. Just think about that…

Whatever, I threw out the TV 20 years ago because I refused to fund this malicious and garbage organisation. I would encourage everyone else to do the same. There are much, much better things to do with your time than watch or listen to the garbage that the BBC churns out 24/7 across endless channels.

pawter2
pawter2
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Wow man: I used to think I was a weirdo when I started to watch Al Jazeera (English) when I was living in a non-English speaking part of the world. I have grave reservations about their bona fides and I know they’ve been reported as promoting some questionable things in their Arabic broadcasts but that just comes with the audience they are targeting and the “message” their backers are trying to sell perhaps?

But compared to the subsidised, self loathing of the “Australia Channel” (now defunct) they were a shoe-in. I’ve heard that the BBC has gone totally Woke but jeez: things must be bad over there. My last TV set got stolen from storage while I was away hiding from a malignant piece of red filth that was running our gov’t at the time. But it was giving me the shits anyway so I’ve not replaced it and that was nearly 10 years ago.

Geoff Cooper
Geoff Cooper
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I stopped watching BBC television or paying the licence fee years ago for the same reasons as you, but we still have a tv on which we watch DVD’s and recently the kid persuaded me to get Netflix, it’s rather good. Who needs to be insulted by this self regarding, arrogant dinosaur and have to pay for the privilege too?

John Smith
John Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Al Jazeera originally picked up a lot of staff from the old BBC Middle East team, and then managed to maintain a reasonable degree of reporting objectivity which is why it feels a bit like the Beeb used to be back in the day.

It’s about the only news source I can bother watch these days – although if you want a master class in Pravda style propaganda RT is always good for a laugh.

N A
N A
3 years ago

“The licence fee can be seen as cheap when its daily output on radio, television and online costs us one-fifth of the price of a coffee in major cafe chains.”

Umm, what on earth does that have to do with anything? That’s an absurd comparison.

Here’s a better comparison: A TV license costs over twice the amount of a basic Netflix subscription and has no where near the amount of content that I actually want to watch as Netflix, nevermind twice as much.

peter lucey
peter lucey
3 years ago
Reply to  N A

+1. These “one coffee a day” comparisons grind my teeth. (a) I dont want £2.50 coffee every day (b) its not compulsory and (c) I dont agree with poorer people, esp single mothers, being forced to buy a coffee a day – or pay £152 pa if they want to watch ITV

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago

Reporters are sent to stand pointlessly outside empty buildings at night for dramatic effect.

Always makes me chuckle this. It’s a format that has become the done thing but no longer makes any sense whatsoever. What value does it add shipping a random journalist to go and stand next to a place where some of the news in the story may or may not have happened?! Do they gain insight through some sort of osmosis?

But it’s symptomatic of many of the other issues you highlight. It’s very set in its ways the BBC on many things, then in the areas it tries to innovate it invariably gets it wrong.

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

“Broken News” spoofed that trope magnificently.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago

Not seen that – will check it out thanks!

The Day Today skewered 90% of news tropes perfectly, and more recently Charlie Brooker’s “How to report the news” was a slam dunk on almost any news report

X Xer
X Xer
3 years ago

Netflix isn’t a parasite, it’s a vastly better competitor than the BBC. When I first got a subscription I could scarcely believe the choice, quality and proper diversity of programming. If I now catch the BBC elsewhere (I cancelled my licence) I’m incredulous at how insipid, painfully PC and anachronistic it is.

Ben
Ben
3 years ago
Reply to  X Xer

How right you are – I’ve resorted to the classic movie channels and been delighted at discovering old gems now long overlooked. YouTube is also a fount of unpublicised treasures which don’t cost a bean.

Andrew Russell
Andrew Russell
3 years ago
Reply to  X Xer

Would that be the Netflix which offers us such gems as ‘Dear White People’ and ‘Cuties’? I would save your money. Amazon donated $10 million to BLM to “organizations that are working to bring about social justice and improve the lives of Black and African Americans”. Aside from being a lot cheaper than paying proper wages to its workers, why would multi-billion dollar companies donate to what is frankly an extremist political party? Because it makes them look good and they’ll go along with any BS as long as they can focus on making vast profits and don’t actually have to change the way they operate.

Geoff Cox
Geoff Cox
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Russell

Andrew, you are right to point this out. Netflix and Amazon are stuffed with films with the usual pc cast and pc plot lines. You have to sort through a lot of rubbish made in the last few years before finding anything any good. But there is nevertheless rather more good stuff on Amazon and Netflix than on the BBC. Everyone, trawl the back catalogue for best results.

Andrew Russell
Andrew Russell
3 years ago
Reply to  Geoff Cox

I agree that there are some interesting films on both, though there’s rather more choice on Amazon – for example, I’ve watched some excellent Russian films and TV series on it. But we aren’t forced to pay a tax to watch them and can cancel our subscriptions should we so wish.

I can’t recall the last time I watched anything made by the BBC (I don’t own a television as I have no desire to pay the BBC tax) – drama series, even (maybe even especially) period dramas, feature crowbarred diversity quotas that are not just anachronistic but downright insulting to the source material. They just can’t get over the fact that Britain is now, and has historically always been, a country of indigenous white people. Black people represent, in 2020, around 4% of the population. If anything they are over-represented in film and TV.

Watching European and Russian foreign films (yes, sometimes on Amazon) means I can concentrate on the story rather than see it mangled by the diversity police. (For example, the superb Russian TV series Dostoevsky with Evgeny Mironov.)

I would be genuinely interested in seeing films made by African cinema, just as I’m interested in some of the films that are made in (for example) Iran. I want to know the stories and the characters – these are genuinely universal. I don’t want to be force-fed diversity quotas by the types of people who are currently responsible for the absurd rules now governing films that can be considered for the Oscars. It’s destroying the possibility of creativity not just in film but also in the other arts.

This kind of political interference was typical of the Soviet Union and led to the production of an immense amount of dreck. Directors like Tarkovsky were exceptional, but I can’t see anything getting past this art-by-committee approach we see taking over today.

Geoff Cox
Geoff Cox
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Russell

Completely agree. We watch a lot of foreign language films and have watched several 1950s Italian films on Amazon recently. They weren’t exactly great, but the scenery is! You mention Iranian films and I’ve watched quite a few – well 10 probably. But you are right about African films – very few out there. I find the French support a lot of African / Middle East films, so good on them. Three recommendations, though all somewhat depressing, sorry! I won’t put links, but look up Osama (Afghanistan) Leviathan (Russia) and The Day I Became a Woman (Iran).

PS We subscribe to Cinema Paradiso also.
PPS I’ve edited to add another film Timbuktu – brilliant

Andrew Russell
Andrew Russell
3 years ago
Reply to  Geoff Cox

I’ll check those out, thanks. Currently not subscribed to Amazon, but I’m thinking of signing up for another month (we’re in local semi-lockdown here and Jeff Bezos needs the money). I’ll recommend one film I saw on Amazon (of course, you’ll have to search for it by name) – a Russian movie called I Won’t Come Back. There’s nothing like it in Hollywood or the (so-called) British movie “industry”. But what a brilliant film.

Geoff Cox
Geoff Cox
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Russell

Looks good – cheers.

Geoff Cox
Geoff Cox
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Russell

We’ve watched “I Won’t Come Back” – excellent, great recommendation.

Stuart Bennett
Stuart Bennett
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Russell

Hmmm.. and the BBC will broadcast anything that fits the woke narrative and block any actual discussion of those topics.

Jos Haynes
Jos Haynes
3 years ago

Have we been watching the same channels?

I have had enough of the the BBC gloating over every increase in Covid19 deaths, over every difficulty which the EU throws up against Brexit, and over every piece of bad news that it can possibly find. It buries any good news.

I have also had enough of its woke campaign to convince the population that it is racist, sexist, and probably fascist too.

I used to admire the BBC but the love affair started to fade 30 years ago. Now I just want a divorce and never to see nor hear of it again.

Warren Alexander
Warren Alexander
3 years ago

I haven’t had a TV licence in decades. I used to be an assiduous listener to radio, particularly Radio 4’s drama and comedy, now both are pathetic parodies of what they used to be. My entertainment comes from the internet where I can find excellent news coverage and lots of entertainment without paying a pointless tax to the BBC.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

Exactly. I would encourage everyone to watch people like Steven Crowder (surely the true genius of new media), Tim Pool and Jimmy Dore (a Socialist, but honest and funny). And there are countless others, all vastly superior to anything in the legacy media.

The only BBC content I now consume is the football commentaries on the radio, which I have on in the background while reading or doing chores. I then watch the highlights on YouTube.

Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
3 years ago

Your talking about an organisation that causally allows anti-white racist (gammon) and sexist (Karen’s) abuse but you think it’s problems can be solved by cutting a few managers jobs?

Ian, you’re part of the problem.

polidoris ghost
polidoris ghost
3 years ago

You don’t arf ramble.
The situation is far worse than you think.
The BBC, and you, come from a small segment of society, let’s call it the metropolitan elite, that thinks it is entitled to a disproportionate say in running the affairs of this country. In the interest of all, of course. Brexit, covid, and your responses to them, has torn away the last figleaf. I think that you are now more widely seen as self serving, deracinated, dishonest, contemptuous of the interests of so many of your fellow countrymen, and willing to collaborate with a foreign power in order to preserve your privileged position. And, most damning of all, your are mostly, utterly incompetent.
This perception is certainly unfair on many individuals. It is, I’m sure, unfair on you. But this is what comes into my mind when one of you puts pen to paper in defence of the BBC and its tax-gathering goons.

Andrew Anderson
Andrew Anderson
3 years ago

Agree with most of this. However, the BBC needs to admit when it’s got something wrong, as good newspapers now do, rather than taking months (no exaggeration) to defend the indefensible.

Re its foreign coverage, I part company with Ian Birrell: it’s patchy, and patronising. For example, its long-serving and (at least by the BBC) highly regarded Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, can speak only enough Arabic to order a a cup of coffee; like not a few of his colleagues, he relies on interpreters and translators. This is inexcusable. I don’t believe there’s a single foreign reporter in the UK or the USA who doesn’t have excellent English. I wonder how much of this is because the BBC cares so little about the rest of the world, unless it’s Brexit-related or the USA. For example, the World at One is a terrible misnomer, hardly ever paying attention two what’s going in 190 other countries.

Let’s hope the new DG can sort this out.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago

There are too many problems with the BBC to list here – but changing the News organisation to do a lot less – with far more capable people – seems a good place to start.

… and untangling the “real news” content from the current (inappropriately named) News website would be a great step forward …

Steve Edwards
Steve Edwards
3 years ago

I was looking forward to watching “Enslaved” fronted by Samual l Jackson. I was hoping for a wide ranging analysis covering all aspects starting from 700 when historical records first show slavery in Africa. I was hoping it would cover the enslavement of White people and the involvement of Arabs. Most importantly, I was hoping it would cover slavery today. But then I reflected on why front such an important topic with 2 celebrities, apparently. Then I checked IMDB:
“A look at 400 years of human trafficking from Africa to the New World, from the perspective of three different storylines.”
Hmm, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Perhaps not!

Sean Arthur Joyce
Sean Arthur Joyce
3 years ago

The same problem is happening in Canada with the CBC. Once the loved and trusted voice of Canadians that linked us from coast to coast across this vast country, it has descended into PC identity politics and an unquestioning daily repeat of the official COVID narrative. All semblance of investigative journalism, such as once made us proud of the CBC, has gone. It is now just another Western version of an official government propaganda organ like Pravda was under the Soviet Union.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

To paraphrase and invert the famous saying, there might at least have been some truth in Izvestiya and some news in Pravda. When it comes to the BBC, CBC, CNN and various others there is neither truth nor news.

Ben
Ben
3 years ago

It’s also hugely London-centric like a lot of organisations and to that extent symptomatic of establishment failure across the board.

Tim Hurren
Tim Hurren
3 years ago

More actual news and far, far less comment and reaction would be welcome. After viewing or listening to BBC news I sometimes wonder why they have to pad things out with predictable waffle rather than including more reports from what is supposed to be a ‘world class’ news team stretching across the globe. I too have come across people who watch Al-Jazeera for news in preference to the BBC, which is somewhat disturbing. But one of the things on the BBC news website that really annoys me is that the scaremongering and biased headlines on the website are often not at all representative of their own content in the accompanying reports. However in that respect Sky News can be just as bad. Wierd.

Diarmid French
Diarmid French
3 years ago

I think it would be better to sack the BBC

Gerry Fruin
Gerry Fruin
3 years ago

Sorry but this analysis really rather points to what has been lost by the BBC. Wimpish, careful not to offend by suggesting modest changes. Salaries of celebrities no issue! Really? It would be easy, so very easy to criticise the laughingly so called news put out by ‘flagship’ program’s. ‘Flag’ White. Oops! now I’ll be banned from Unheard.
More than 6000 ‘reporters’ and the Today program still has “whim of the week” anti-government agendas that are trivial, but the celebrities keep to their script even when real agendas have come and gone. Catch out a politico is the big brownie point winner.
I fear the writer hasn’t the experience of hearing the BBC news in it’s pomp. Many Unheard readers will remember when the TV (10″) news was read by a man in a dinner jacket and spoke clearly in beautifully modulated English. Compare today’s slovenly estuary delivery and weep. Younowarraimeen. Yuno?
It’s far too late to change this parasitic overstaffed grubby tenth rate monster. The answer? Oh a good old establishment compromise. Throw more resources at it, pour in more tax payer funding and increase the innumerable committees. Finally up the salaries and add a few hundred ‘Sirhoods’. There, solved the British way. Yuno

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago

“calm response” to the virus panic? Anyone listening to PM or the Today program on R4 would have heard the glee with which they reported faked or exaggerated death or infection rates, government failures and the economic damage. I am not in the least puzzled by the nature of their game nor are most people i know. What they pay their pundits is irrelevant… aside from Linekar none seem to advocate fringe or violent political ideas. If they can negotiate these figures i say well done to them.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

And don’t get me started on Last Night of the Sue Barker…

Graham Smith
Graham Smith
3 years ago

The Hatfield train crash was the start of my parting with the BBC. I remember the presenter on R4 saying along the lines of ‘It’s only just happened so we don’t want to speculate, but……. and so started speculation from the first ‘expert’. Then the Dr David Kelly saga which went on for weeks to the virtual exclusion of all other news on R4.
And now Covid. Disgusting, fear mongering reporting with zero investigative reporting. Taking the govt line without question. Can’t bring myself to listen watch or read more than 30seconds of it. Where is the questioning of policy? Where is the challenge on the ‘science’ as presented by govt and their ‘advisors’. All we get (certainly until very recently) is silence or put downs of anyone questioning the establishment line.
I still listen to some drama and comedy, maybe Ken Bruce. That’s about it. I tune mainly into a number of non mainstream media sources for news plus Al Jazeera.
The BBC is broken, big time. I know nothing about how to run media operations so not going to advise on them fixing themselves. The BBC needs to re-establish its own news identity, regrow it’s set of balls and step out with head held high. Or just forget news altogether and stick to drama.

Andrew Best
Andrew Best
3 years ago
Reply to  Graham Smith

Drama by the BBC
No thanks.
Woke rubbish with a never ending agenda of teach the racists they are just evil
Great apart from the people the BBC thinks are racist are the whole country but only the white people obviously and they must be taught that they are evil and just unworthy of a place in polite society.
No thanks

David Bottomley
David Bottomley
3 years ago

Totally agree it needs to up it’s game in reporting on China – and drop some of the over lengthy and tedious reporting on Trump ( far too much detail to the point that we can’t see the wood for the trees).

The daily news programmes should also integrate with, and cross refer to the website for more info, insight and background.

Oh and drop the many and often pointless, time consuming interviews with random people in the street – the ‘how do you feel about’ type of question to which the poor person has to come up with some sort of unconsidered answer.

David Waring
David Waring
3 years ago

The BBC no longer does unbiased TV or Radio as its presenters e.g Katy Kay and Christian Fraser practically salivate at the prospect of dead US civilians.

David Bottomley
David Bottomley
3 years ago

In addition to the point made, there is one thing that puzzles and annoy me concerning UK national and regional reporters. Why, oh why does BBC central have its own ‘Scotland’ reporter in addition to the team that BBC Scotland employs. I cannot think of a single reason for this and it seems a total waste of money in a) employing the Scotland reporter and camera and b) in managing this pointless position. It’s the same with Wales and even with regions of England

Joe Blow
Joe Blow
3 years ago

The oversight of the BBC must entail some form of dispassionate annual assessment of its bias, not by its own blinkered luvvies, but by people with established academic know-how that can undertake the analyses. We can probably all see what the results would be, and the BBC should be given zero second chances, given how many they have already had.

They do real damage: it is probable that the lines fed to bumbling Biden as he dribbles about Brexit have found their way to him from the BBC to NPR and then to one of the unthinking millennials who script-write his “Brexit = nasty xenophobia” garbage.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Blow

Believe me, the last people you should trust are ‘people with established academic know-how’, at least beyond the hard sciences. And probably not even in the hard sciences these days.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Sadly many of the current academics are too woke to see the issues – or too scared for their jobs to point stuff out ….

dehavilland
dehavilland
3 years ago

The entire notion underpinning the BBC is and always was a terrible idea. State owned broadcasters are by their very nature always going to be political footballs. Bulldoze the institution & salt the earth upon which it stood.

Stuart Bennett
Stuart Bennett
3 years ago

BBC News online is an embarrassment to journalism that gets worse every time I venture on. Partisan churnalism and click bait style headlines. They should also be reminded that the whole country pays the licence fee, not just the Woke.

Steve Craddock
Steve Craddock
3 years ago

I believe the bbc is merely reflecting the incompetence and politics seen in many areas of UK life that draw their workforces from similar demographics. The career middle managers who progess to their elevated positions almost solely based on the fact there was no one better available at the time and who are a continual reminder of the old truism: “That [middle] managers rise to the level of their own incompetence” whereas a valuable worker grows in to their area of expertise. I would be happier to voluntarily continue to pay the licence fee if the beeb put some proper balance back in its programming and started filling their “factual” and news output with actual facts from which I can then form my own opinions. Walruses falling off a cliff or largely peacefull protests anyone?

Hector Mildew
Hector Mildew
3 years ago

Mr Birrell writes:

“It (the BBC}… has delivered big scoops on the atrocities inflicted on Uighurs by Beijing.”

And so it should have done. It seems curiously reticent, however, about delivering anything on the widespread persecution of Christians either in China or anywhere else.

srhodes5
srhodes5
3 years ago

Constructive criticism of the BBC is all very fine but there is a more insidious campaign led by the very shouty,shallow ‘journalists’ on the Murdoch & Global radio stations. This is not challenged by the BBC. Some of the desperate desire to please the London illiterati & make BBC inclusive to all sections of society all the time is making it look like a whimpering kitten rater the lion it was. However, the depth of news it still produces & the variety of output, still makes it my broadcaster of choice. I’m extremely concerned that it will be destroyed to be replaced by the commercial, ponderous shallow LBC,Talk Radio & their ilk.

Graham Smith
Graham Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  srhodes5

I’d totally disagree with the notion of Talk Radio being shallow. Can’t speak for the others as I don’t listen to them. Mike Graham for instance has putting up guests who challenge all angles of the Covid debacle. Interestly, and probably predictably the most common ‘guests’ like mainstream politicians, scientists who adorn the BBC ‘news’ refuse to appear on Mike’s programme. No prizes for guessing that they don’t like a challenging grilling.
Which is what the BBC should be giving them. It’s not like the BBC is funded by big business and has to jump to their tune. Or maybe they do indirectly.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Graham Smith

Talk Radio is a mixed bag, but still a lot better than the BBC.

Geoff Cox
Geoff Cox
3 years ago
Reply to  srhodes5

Simon – the BBC looks like a class act compared to LBC and Talk Radio etc I agree. (And it doesn’t do adverts except for its own product). The trouble is the BBC content. You may as well be buying the Guardian or subscribing to Stonewall or BLM.