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Sunday, October 24, 2021

Ideological battle moves back to the BBC

The assault on the BBC, our so-called public sector broadcaster, has been underway since the days of Margaret Thatcher, maybe even longer. The fact that at some stages the corporation is attacked from both left and right indicates that perhaps they are getting the balance right after all, though on many many occasions producers' idea of a balanced feature is perverse to say the least.

Now, the government, or its allies at least, see an opportunity to turn the tide in their favour. Laura Kuenssberg is moving on from the role of political editor and at least one senior Tory wants her replacement to be ‘pro-Brexit’. 

The irony of Julian Knight MP, the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, even mooting such an appointment appears to have eluded him. You can't go around saying the BBC is biased, calling for better impartiality and then demand that it be stacked in your favour. Well, you can, but it's hardly consistent:

“This would be an opportunity for the BBC, maybe, to look at journalists who had a much more pro-Brexit [approach],” the influential Tory told The Telegraph.

Mr Knight added: “In front of our committee [BBC director general] Tim Davie could not name any senior person he had employed during his watch who supported Brexit. Maybe this is a chance to correct that.”

The senior MP recently attacked the BBC for not “getting on with it” after the Brexit referendum, saying: “It was not in touch at all over Brexit – it had a collective nervous breakdown in my view.”

The media select committee chair did offer praise for Ms Kuenssberg’s work, however, saying that she “will be a really sad loss to the role, she brings real insight”.

His call for a pro-Brexit political editor follows Tory concern about the appointment of Jess Brammar to a senior role in BBC News, despite an impartiality row over her old tweets.

Some right-wing media outlets drew attention to Ms Brammar’s now-deleted tweets, which were critical of Brexit. BBC board member Sir Robbie Gibb – former communications director to Theresa May – reportedly objected to her appointment.

After weeks of sniping from Conservative MPs, the former editor of HuffPost UK was given the job of overseeing the BBC’s domestic and international news channels in September.

If the independence of the BBC is to be maintained politicians in particular need to butt-out and let them get on with it. Surely, the chair of Parliament's media committee understands that better than most.

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