The Daily Mail marked the appointment of John Whittingdale as Culture Secretary by telling the BBC: “Watch out, Auntie!”
The Mail’s editorial today said licence fee payers should “rejoice over the appointment”, citing his performance as chairman of the Commons Media, Culture and Sport select committee where he “took a robust stand against the corporation’s bloated bureaucracy and entrenched left-wing bias, calling for a radical rethink of funding”.
News of Whittingale's appointment was reported on the front pages of The Times ("Cameron's shot across the bows to the BBC"), The Independent ("BBC on edge as licence fee critic made Culture Secretary"), Daily Telegraph ("Tories go to war on the BBC"), Metro ("BBC fighting for its future") and i ("BBC fears for its future").
The Daily Mail reported the news on page six under the headline: "Minister for BBC bashing". Along with other newspapers, it followed up on a Guido Fawkes story reporting how the BBC’s press office Twitter account had retweeted a screen grab highlighting that Whittingdale is “strongly against equal gay rights” and other social issues.
Under the headline "Watch out, Auntie!", the Mail editorial said: “After five years of BBC shroud-waving over Coalition cuts, he shouldn’t hesitate to act on his convictions.
“Officially, Broadcasting House is ‘looking forward to working with him’. But could anything better illustrate its true attitude – and the need for reform – than yesterday’s (hastily deleted) retweet from the BBC Press Office, greeting Mr Whittingdale’s arrival by attacking his conservative stance on social issues?”
The Daily Telegraph editorial today suggested that the appointment of Whittingdale “will have sent a shiver of apprehension through the corporation”.
The Telegraph noted that “many Conservatives… would like to see a reckoning for what they regard as a pro-Labour slant”. But it added that “they need to be careful”.
“There is far more to the BBC than its news and current affairs output. Much of what it does, from radio to drama and documentary, is part of the warp and weft of the nation.”
It added: “But the corporation needs to decide what it is for and who it serves as the negotiations get under way about the charter and the licence fee. Communications have changed utterly since these funding arrangements were first agreed, so why should they continue? Why does the BBC need to have such an all-encompassing digital news operation in competition with newspapers that do not have the luxury of a tax to support them?
“The BBC’s broadcasting model is as outdated as the vast state-funded monolith that runs it. The corporation needs to demonstrate its continuing relevance in a changed media landscape and Mr Whittingdale must ensure that it does. He can expect a rough time from the Left-wing intelligentsia as he goes about his task.”
The Guardian’s editorial was less positive about the appointment, warning that it is “potentially explosive”.
It described Whittingdale as “generally pro-Murdoch” and that “the Leveson reform process is now effectively dead and buried”.
The Guardian said: “But the defining test of the new minister will be the BBC charter renewal and licence fee negotiations in the coming 18 months.
“The big issues facing the second Cameron government are easily stated. They are Britain’s place in Europe, the possible break-up of the United Kingdom, the future of human rights and the survival of the welfare budget under continuing fiscal austerity.
“But the appointment of Mr Whittingdale is a reminder of a fifth great issue. The dismemberment or the starvation of the BBC would be one of the great acts of vandalism against this country’s institutions and shared culture.
“There is much talent and promise in the new government. But it is embarking on a series of projects which may put much that is good, just and decent about this country at very great risk indeed.”