A former BBC journalist became one of Jeremy Corbyn’s top parliamentary allies. Now, Clive Lewis has made his thoughts on his old employer clear.
The MP for Norwich South held two roles in Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet and remains one of the leader’s top parliamentary supporters. But beforehand, in 2005, Lewis was the BBC‘s main reporter for its Politics Show East.
Lewis spoke out about the broadcaster on a media panel at The World Transformed, a pro-Corbyn Momentum event on the outside of the Labour conference. He said the BBC has a “structural bias” against Corbyn’s politics.
‘Actually change the BBC‘
Debate then moved to the inner workings of the BBC. Lewis agreed with an audience member who suggested the BBC director-general should be elected. The former BBC journalist then went further:
In terms of the director-general being elected, I think that would be a start. That would open up a debate and develop a hunger from the public to actually change the BBC. If you have an elected director-general then they are accountable to some degree.
The BBC did not react well to the prospect of an elected director-general:
It would be wrong to politicise the choice of director-general. There’s a charter in place which sets out a clear process for the appointment of the chairman, director-general and board.
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The BBC is a public institution, and Lewis seems to feel it should be accountable to licence fee payers. But at present, positions of power at the BBC are undemocratically appointed.
As of April this year, a new BBC board has replaced both the BBC Trust and BBC Executive as the broadcaster’s regulatory body. It’s this new unitary board that will appoint future director-generals. But the chair of the board – David Clementi – was appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Conservative Culture, Media and Sport Secretary.
Loach agrees with Lewis
Film director Ken Loach had similar recommendations at The World Transformed. In an interview with Novara Media, he drew attention to the BBC:
When we’re in government then we have to make certain we’re in power because they’re not the same… We’ve got to start with the BBC and the press
Asked what reforms he would carry out, Loach said:
Change the ownership. To have a licence to run a national newspaper or any newspaper… It should be owned collectively… so there’s no press barons and no ownership of the mass media
Then, the director of I, Daniel Blake argued that the fact that the BBC is “dominated by state appointees” is “completely anti-democratic”.
The Canary offered the BBC space to respond to these criticisms, but it did not reply.
‘No surprise’ that the BBC is anti-Corbyn
At the Momentum event, Lewis also pointed to the BBC‘s history:
You know the history of the BBC? Lord Reith cut his teeth and established the BBC off the back of helping Winston Churchill and others break the  general strike. That was how the BBC was born … so it’s probably no surprise that it’s probably going to be antagonistic to Corbyn.
The MP took aim at the media as a whole, branding it:
part of the hegemonic control of the Establishment over our society. They help to create ‘common sense’ – and austerity was common sense until recently. It was the only option.
As a former BBC journalist, Lewis has experience from inside the broadcaster. And the Labour MP suggests the BBC is institutionally biased against the movement behind Corbyn. That’s no wonder – the Conservative government essentially appoints people with great power within the BBC. So Loach and Lewis argue that we must change the appointee system and introduce more democracy to the broadcaster.
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