Selecting the chair of the BBC is almost Britain’s equivalent of finding the next Pope. He or she must be immaculate and must be an unassailable tightrope-walker in terms of political /social/religious balance.
Why? Because the BBC is OUR BBC and we insist, indeed the BBC Charter insists, on political, social and religious balance. Yet, the Board of the BBC makes the choice and the next question is who chooses that board and that’s where we find ourselves looking at what can only be described as an amorphous melange of people, most of whom none of us could name.
What is true is that the current chair has very good managerial credentials, but he has a suspect track record of affiliations that, politically, light fires. His curriculum vitae shows he is not a tightrope man at all when it comes to balance. He has a history of walking firmly on the political right by association and by preference. By association, he helped a previous Prime Minister (Johnson) obtain financial help when he was in difficulties with money. Johnson secured the sort of financial help that few others could have obtained without knowing the ‘right’ people: the current BBC chair is clearly one of the ‘right’ people.
He is also politically to the right, having personally contributed to organisations that, directly or indirectly, campaign for the privatisation of the BBC. Tell me, how did he even get to sit in the interview waiting room? Even if his competence and business ethics were impeccable, he is a square peg wanting to get into a round hole.
To anyone who has reached the upper echelons of seniority in the financial services industry the expression “It’s who you know – not what you know that really counts” will be well understood. So the question in many people’s minds is: gaining the most prestigious job in the communications business, anywhere in the world – namely, Chairman of the BBC – is that payback time? To many, such an inference might be unacceptable So what do the public feel about him giving financial support to those who want the privatisation of Auntie? It’s a bit like having a Russian General applying for the job as head of NATO being seen as acceptable because he plays cricket and supports The Gunners football team.
If this paragon of business virtue is all he has been said to be, should he not ask himself this question?
‘If, as it seems clearly evident, I cannot carry the support of many of the senior people within the BBC , then it’s in the best interest of the BBC – and myself – to resign as Chair since, as a publicly-owned broadcaster, the BBC should continue to adhere to a policy of strict non-partisan. non- political, unprejudiced reporting of factually-accurate, reasoned news to the broad spectrum of listeners and viewers.’
M Don Frampton