No ‘surprise’ here. Seems the Tory BBC coup is nearly complete.

BBC logo and Boris Johnson
Fréa Lockley

In January, BBC director-general Tony Hall announced his resignation. On 10 February, the BBC published a job advert for his replacement. But the names linked as potential front-runners for this position should worry us all. Because it seems highly likely that a Tory coup on the broadcaster may well be nearing completion.

Surprise?

On 5 February, culture secretary Nicky Morgan suggested the government might axe the BBC licence fee. Speaking to an audience at Policy Exchange, a right-wing thinktank, she said “we must all be open minded about the future of the licence fee” after 2027. Clearly, change is coming.

And now, according to the i, Elisabeth Murdoch is the “surprise contender” to take on Hall’s role. It also reported:

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Although Downing Street’s dream choice to lead the BBC into a post licence fee future would be a longstanding critic such as Rebekah Brooks, CEO of Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, a figure such as Ms Murdoch would prove an acceptable compromise.

Elisabeth Murdoch is one of Rupert Murdoch’s daughters.

Danger zone

That Murdoch and Brooks have even been linked to this role is concerning.

Firstly, because of their obvious links to media tycoon Rupert Murdoch. Although the News of the World is no more, Brooks is head of Murdoch’s News UK which owns the Sun, the Times, and the Sunday Times. On 26 January, News UK announced “an attack on the BBC with the launch of a new radio station to rival the embattled Radio 4“. So clearly, the Murdoch empire has the BBC in its sights.

But it’s even more worrying because of Murdoch’s track record in the arts. And given the extent of BBC bias against the left already, there’s a perfect storm brewing.

“Corporate takeover”

If Murdoch did fill this role, it would have serious implications for all BBC output, especially drama. Because Murdoch’s already a highly controversial figure in the arts world.

In 2017, she joined Arts Council England’s (ACE) National Council. This was seen by many as a “corporate takeover of the arts”. In 2017, Theresa May appointed Nicholas Serota head of ACE and he immediately brought Murdoch into the mix. This also highlights the revolving door between successive Tory governments and senior arts positions. Because in 1988, Margaret Thatcher gave Serota an influential role as Tate director. And as artists noted:

during Serota’s reign at Tate, he supported artwashing in the form of BP sponsorshiprefused to recognise unionsprivatised staff positions, introduced the use of zero hour contractspresided over a culture of widespread bullyingprivatised information

Serota repeatedly used his position to privatise the institution, forging relationships with corporate and private interests, no matter where the money came from or at what cost to the environment or human rights.

None of this bodes well for the BBC.

Tory mouthpiece

As for BBC politics, bias peaked in the 2019 general election. As The Canary‘s Emily Apple reported, a few lows of note included:

  • Broadcasting the wrong footage of Boris Johnson on Remembrance Sunday.
  • Deciding to make ‘not politicising’ the NHS a top story.
  • Broadcasting Jeremy Corbyn’s interview with Andrew Neil before Johnson agreed to do a similar interview.
  • Its political editor Laura Kuenssberg using her Twitter account with millions of followers to promote Johnson on numerous occasions. But perhaps her lowest point was tweeting the lie, fed to her from Tories, that Matt Hancock’s aide had been punched by a protester.
  • Editing out the audience laughing at Johnson during a leadership debate in one of its lunchtime news bulletins.
  • On the eve of the election, it was accused of electoral fraud after Kuenssberg broadcast comments about the number of postal votes looking “grim” for Labour.

Meanwhile, BBC politics promoted lie after Tory lie. Although its fact-checking service did go into overdrive, most people only saw headlines and tweets, not the fact-checker. And those headlines and tweets promoted lies.

So we now have a Murdoch-backed Tory government, and we can’t ignore the role that our supposedly impartial public broadcaster played in making this happen. But if Murdoch does succeed Hall, it will be ‘coup complete’ for the Tories.

Featured image via Tim Loudon-Flickr and ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

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