BBC Director General Warns Culture Wars Are "Dangerous" To Impartial Media
Tim Davie defended the BBC’s reputation as “a good facilitator of proper open debate and diverse views” (Alamy)
BBC Director General Tim Davie has warned that “culture wars” have made it harder for the broadcaster when working to ensure a fair and balanced service, and criticised backlash over the hiring of new executive news editor Jess Brammar.
Appearing before MPs on the Department for Media Sport and Culture Select Committee on Tuesday, he addressed a series of controversies surrounding impartiality at the BBC and the political stance of its staff.
"I think the culture wars are raging, I think we've got a real battle on our hands. I walk a tightrope every day on this, but we've got to fight for it,” he said.
Davie continued: "I think that's essential to us. It's mission critical. It's us, and it puts you in a very different place to where the rest of the world is heading in my view, which is a dangerous place around partial media.
"I and others feel very passionately about this. We're in a battle for this, and I think we need to really be clear that we're not perfect. We've got plenty of work to do to facilitate a space where we can properly debate these issues."
He also said that backlash over the hiring of Brammar to the BBC newsroom was “unhelpful” and impacted the board’s ability to make hires from a range of political views.
The executive news editor’s appointment attracted criticism from right wing media, who accused her of being criticital on Twitter of the government and Brexit negotiations.
Davie defended the appointment, and said he expected all staff to leave their political views “at the door”. He warned the backlash could spark a “Jess Brammar effect”, discouraging a wide range of journalists from applying from editorial positions.
“We need to hire the best at the BBC, and we need to hire across the political spectrum,” he told the committee.
“That is an incredibly important precedent and this affair is dangerous territory for us.”
He continued: “If people begin to start doubting our ability to hire people with views into the BBC, and when they get here, they leave them at the door.”
“I want to make sure we’re hiring for a broad church of individuals and what characterises them is their ability to leave their politics at the door,”
He also defended the BBC’s reputation as “a good facilitator of proper open debate and diverse views”, but said he was worried about "institutional groupthink" arising from executives coming from similar backgrounds.
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe