Your views are unacceptable
Jun 23, 2007
Bishop Hill in BBC

There was an interesting article in the Times last week. Media Editor Dan Sabbagh profiled the BBC deputy director general, Mark Byford, who is the man responsible for maintaining the organisation's impartiality.

Try to ask him whether the BBC has a case to answer, and it is hard to get anywhere. Andrew Marr’s remarks, for example, are dismissed as “a quote from a seminar that was held several months ago,” and while Mr Byford is willing to concede that “he’s heard people say” that the BBC has a liberal bias, he does not accept it exists.

I don't suppose he reads Biased BBC then - everything's fine and dandy and the fact that ex-BBC journalists like Andrew Marr and Robin Aitken say that there is bias is just something that can be shrugged off. Move along, nothing to see here.

Sabbagh makes a very pertinent point though which rather skewers Byford as a man who is being economic with the actualité:

Yet the final report repeatedly teases out examples where the BBC has reflected a narrower range of opinion than exists in Britain at large. The document asks, when, for example, was the last time Radio 4’s Today discussed capital punishment in a way that was in any way not hostile to the notion – or why politicians are treated completely differently to the spokesmen for pressure groups.

So could the BBC now air a “polemic” in favour of capital punishment? That would cause a stir. On this Mr Byford is hard to pin down: he argues that the BBC gives vent to a broad range of views “every week on Question Time”; that polemic would not be appropriate in news and current affairs, although “in a documentary there is a place for it”. But he does not agree that he should commission a bring back hanging documentary either.

I think this is pretty much indefensible. Capital punishment is a view favoured by nearly half the population (full disclosure: not the half I'm in)  so what we are seeing is that the deputy director general of the BBC is essentially indicating that the views of half of the licence fee payers are so offensive to him that he is willing to abuse his power and prevent these views being aired in a documentary. His head should surely roll for this, and if the governors (or whatever they call themselves these days) don't do it, then their heads should roll too.

What other views are offensive to Mr Byford? Euroscepticism? Corporal punishment? English Parliament? Conservatism?

Based on the BBC's output, I think we can probably speculate that it's all of the above.

He should go. 


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