The BBC is left red-faced after its claims of impartiality get blown out of the water

Bex Sumner

If you ever wondered who edits many of the BBC‘s political programmes, you now have an answer: it’s people who want to help keep Theresa May in power. The Prime Minister is recruiting for her new Head of Communications. And The Guardian is reporting that two senior BBC figures have been interviewed for the role.

Weeks before the 2017 general election, May’s Director of Communications Katie Perrior resigned. The PM is now recruiting for her replacement, and The Guardian reports that not one but two senior BBC figures were in the running:

James Landale, who was previously the corporation’s deputy political editor, has been interviewed for the role as well as Robbie Gibb, who heads the BBC’s operations at Westminster, according to Downing Street sources.

Landale is a former Etonian who missed out on Laura Kuenssberg’s job. Gibb, brother of Conservative minister Nick Gibb, is the editor overseeing such programmes as the Daily Politics. Landale has since ruled himself out of the job.

The revolving door

Whoever gets the job, they will not be the first BBC heavyweight to hold a key post with the Conservatives. Gibb himself was the former chief of staff to Francis Maude MP. Craig Oliver controlled the BBC‘s World Service and BBC World News before joining David Cameron’s team. Andrew Neil, who presents several hours of political and current affairs television every week, was a former researcher for the Conservative Party. Senior political producer Thea Rogers left the BBC to advise George Osborne. And, of course, the former chair of the BBC Trust was ex-Conservative cabinet minister Lord Patten.

Wider bias

That the BBC and the Conservative Party make such easy bedfellows may go some way towards explaining the wider pattern of Conservative bias in the BBC. As The Canary has previously reported, a 2013 content analysis of the BBC by Cardiff University found that:

  • The BBC consistently grants more airtime to the Conservatives, whichever party is in power.
  • On BBC News at Six, business representatives outnumbered trade union spokespeople by more than 5:1 in 2007 and by 19:1 in 2012.
  • BBC coverage of the 2008 financial crisis was dominated by stockbrokers, investment bankers, hedge fund managers and other City voices. Civil society voices or commentators critical of the finance sector were almost completely absent from coverage.

Meanwhile, studies by the London School of Economics and the Media Reform Coalition have found serious imbalances in the reporting of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn across the media.

Enough is enough

Paul Lewis, BBC Money Box presenter, is clear about the harm such appointments do to the BBC‘s reputation:

He is right. Because the revolving door between the BBC and the Conservative government exposes one very simple truth: that the BBC is all too often just a mouthpiece in favour of the status quo under the Conservatives. And, with a chaotic government intent on inflicting continuing austerity and a hard-right Brexit on its people, we deserve much, much better from our public service broadcaster.

Update 10:25am on 5 July: James Landale has now announced that: “I was asked if I would consider a job at No10. Nice to be asked but have decided not to apply. Have great job at BBC.” The article and headline have been updated to reflect this development.

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Featured image via Matt Cornock/Flickr

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