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Jeremy Corbyn calls for BBC directors to face election as he targets 'failing media'

Jeremy Corbyn calls for BBC directors to face election as he targets 'failing media'

Emilio Casalicchio

3 min read

BBC directors should be elected by viewers in a bid to stamp out “political influence” by the Government, Jeremy Corbyn is set to declare.

The Labour leader will float a series of ideas to shake up the media world - including allowing licence-fee payers to elect board members of the national broadcaster.

He will also say Labour could hit tech giants like Google and Facebook with windfall tax to fund public interest journalism and supplement the BBC licence fee to reduce the cost for poorer households.

And he will argue the BBC should publish staff equalities data including the class make up of their workforce creating BBC content. 

Mr Corbyn will argue journalists and media workers must be “set free to do their best work, not held back by media bosses, billionaires or the state”.

The Labour leader has had a fractious relationship with the media in the past - including the BBC, which in 2016 he said was “obsessed” with damaging his leadership.

“There is not one story on any election anywhere in the UK that the BBC will not spin into a problem for me,” he told Vice News at the time.

In a speech at the Edinburgh TV festival titled “we can fix our failing media by setting journalists and citizens free to hold power to account” he will set out a range of possibilities for BBC reform.

“One proposal would simultaneously reduce government political influence on the BBC while empowering its workforce and license fee payers,” he will argue.

“That would see some elections of places to the BBC Board, for example of executive directors by staff and non-executive directors by licence fee payers.”

Currently the BBC appoints the majority of its board members, while the Department for Culture, Media and Sport gets to appoint four of its non-executive directors to represent each of the four UK regions. 

Mr Corbyn will also argue a new independent body should set the licence fee, while extra cash could come from internet service providers to allow the BBC to compete with streaming services such as Netflix.

And he will say: "The BBC could lead the way by setting best practice with complete transparency on the makeup of its workforce by publishing equality data, including for social class, for all creators of BBC content, whether in-house or external."


Elsewhere, he will say news publishers should strike a deal with web giants like Google to secure a cut of their profits from searches and sharing functions.

Deals have been struck between the French and Belgian governments and Google which will see the search engine fund the digital development of publishers in exchange for listing their content.

Mr Corbyn will argue a simple windfall tax should be levied on the web giants to create a “public interest media fund” if such a deal cannot be struck.

And he will argue some local and public interest media organisations, such as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, should be granted charitable status, while a BBC scheme to aid local news should be boosted.

Mr Corbyn will declare that the UK needs “bold, radical thinking on the future of our media” because of low levels of public trust and the impact of the digital revolution.

He will warn that without major changes, “a few tech giants and unaccountable billionaires will control huge swathes of our public space and debate”.

The Labour party just last week submitted a formal complaint to press regulator Ipso over coverage of a wreath-laying ceremony he attended in 2014.

Earlier this week he said Labour faces “greater hostility” from the media under his leadership than ever before.

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