The BBC is like the “Fox News of the Left”, long-standing critic of the corporation Charles Moore has claimed.
Writing in the Telegraph, Lord Moore – who was in the running to become chairman of the BBC – suggested that the broadcaster has failed to show “superimpartiality” in its coverage of the Partygate scandal.
“On the contrary,” he said. “from the news that starts the day to Newsnight, with presenters like Lewis Goodall, which ends it, the BBC has tried to prove that this is the worst scandal in living memory and will be fatal to Boris Johnson’s premiership.
“It has dragged out the sort of disgruntled Tory backbenchers it normally despises and given them endless airtime to attack the Prime Minister. It is not far off being a Fox News of the Left, taking a line and incessantly promoting it.”
‘The BBC under-served its audience’
Lord Moore said the BBC’s approach to Partygate saw it trying to “ape Fleet Street”.
He wrote: “ If you had relied solely on BBC coverage last week, you would have concluded that Boris was about to be kicked out. There was almost no presentation of the contrary view – which precedent suggests is likelier to be right – that he probably wasn’t.
“As a result, the BBC under-served its audiences, who crave news that is calm, balanced and correctly prioritised. The biggest story in the world last week (and this) is the possibility of Russia invading Ukraine. The BBC virtually forgot this.”
Meanwhile the BBC’s director-general has warned that adopting a subscription-based alternative to the licence fee risks creating a “commercial agenda” which would mean a substantial change to the corporation’s output.
Tim Davie told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that if the publicly-funded broadcaster became even largely subscription-based, rather than wholly so, it will “not do what it does today”.
His comments follow confirmation from Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries on Monday that the licence fee is to be frozen at £159 for two years, until 2024, after which it will rise in line with inflation for the following four years.
Goodbye license fee
A number of alternatives to the licence fee have been floated, including an opt-in subscription service similar to that used by streaming giants such as Netflix, the introduction of advertising, or a broadband levy.
Davie said: “Once you’re trying to serve a subscription base and a commercial agenda – and, believe me, I’ve run commercial businesses – it is a completely different situation, because suddenly you are doing things that are there to make profit and make a return to a specific audience.”
Asked if he agrees with the debate that the licence fee is “over”, he said: “I think the debate is more centred around ‘Do we want a universal public service media organisation at the heart of our creative economy, which has served us incredibly well?’ And if we want that, we have to support a publicly-backed and not a fully commercialised BBC.”
He added that the broadcaster could transform into a commercial operation, but if it did “it will not do what it does today”.
“We have built an incredible creative industry here in the UK, and we’ve got a universal broadcaster that is admired around the world,” Davie told Today.
“That is because it serves the British public and all the British public… the principle of universality is absolutely the debate here.”
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