Updated 14 July:
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the Commons, has said bringing in journalists from left-wing outlets undermined the perception of the organisation’s independence.
- July 28, 2021
- July 27, 2021
- July 22, 2021
In his fortnightly podcast for the Conservative Home website, Rees-Mogg complained the corporation was unwilling to take on people seen to have come from a more right-wing background.
“When did the BBC last hire somebody from Conservative Home to come and be their senior figure or from The Daily Telegraph?” he said.
“I remember when they appointed Andrew Marr as their political editor, who was a polemicist for one of the left-wing newspapers, somebody said to them why hadn’t they appointed Boris Johnson or someone from the right.
“And, of course, they said ‘we couldn’t possibly do that, it’s too controversial’.
“When it’s from the left it’s all right, but when it’s from the right that’s beyond the pale. I think the BBC does itself a lot of damage in this regard.
“People like [political editor] Laura Kuenssberg make their professional reputations on being completely impartial.
“Then the BBC management goes off and starts suggesting it should hire someone from a left-wing outlet, and that damages the whole perception of independence and impartiality at the BBC.”
Original story 12 July:
Labour has written to BBC bosses demanding they tell Sir Robbie Gibb to resign amid allegations that he tried to block a senior editorial appointment on political grounds.
The Financial Times reported that Sir Robbie, a former communications director for Theresa May who became a non-executive director at the corporation in May, attempted to stop former Huffpost UK editor and deputy Newsnight editor Jess Brammar from being appointed to a key editorial role.
According to the FT, Sir Robbie texted BBC director of news and current affairs Fran Unsworth saying she “cannot make this appointment” for the executive news editor role as it would mean the Government’s “fragile trust in the BBC will be shattered”. A source close to Gibb told the newspaper he denied sending a message worded as such.
The BBC said on Saturday that “no recruitment process has been blocked”.
But Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner wrote to BBC chair Richard Sharp and director-general Tim Davie to call for the resignation of Sir Robbie from the BBC board.
Rayner said the claims go “to the core of both operational and governance matters for the BBC”.
Her letter said: “Putting pressure on the recruitment process of staff is entirely outside of the remit of the board and a total abuse of position.”
However a BBC spokesperson said “as a general principle, board members are able to discuss issues with other board members or senior executives”.
Former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger was among the journalists also calling for Sir Robbie’s resignation and Brammar’s appointment if the FT report was confirmed.
Rayner’s letter said: “I cannot believe that a BBC board chair could ever allow a director to act in this way and stay in post. I hope, therefore, that Robbie Gibb’s actions were news to you.
“I expect that you will now ask him to resign his position and investigate how this happened.”
She also called for the release of minutes and other correspondence relating to Sir Robbie’s appointment, and for an explanation over whether his links to the Conservative Party were properly taken into consideration.
She said: “Non-executive directors are supposed to be committed to delivering the mission of the BBC, not wielding political influence or lobbying on behalf of the Government on staff appointments.”
Sir Robbie did not respond to PA’s requests for comment but The Independent said he had referred the outlet to the BBC’s statement on the matter.
A BBC spokesperson said: “We will respond to the letter in due course. As the BBC has set out, we do not comment on ongoing recruitment processes – which are the responsibility of the executive.
“For absolute clarity, no recruitment process has been blocked.
“The responsibility for staff appointments rests with the executive, not the BBC board. Board members are able to discuss issues with other board members; they are also able to raise issues with senior executives.
“It is essential that board members can debate and discuss issues. They have an absolute right to do so and it is fully consistent with having a unitary board. What individual board members can’t do is make decisions which are for the executive. That hasn’t happened. Good governance principles were adhered to.
“As we have clearly stated, the outcome of this specific recruitment process will be announced in due course.
“The letter raises a number of issues around Robbie Gibb’s appointment to the BBC board. Non-executive members for the nations (such as Robbie Gibb) are appointed by order-in-council on the recommendation of the UK Government, not the BBC’s nominations committee.
“Robbie Gibb has no role advising the Government and he stepped down from the Government’s PSB (public service broadcasting) panel when he took up the role at the BBC.”
Earlier this year Brammar defended then-Huffpost UK journalist Nadine White and made a formal complaint to the Cabinet Office after Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch publicly accused the reporter of “creepy and bizarre” behaviour.
Badenoch posted a seemingly standard right-to-reply request from White on Twitter alongside a tirade accusing her of seeking to “sow distrust” and “chasing clicks”.
Brammar, whose complaint to the Cabinet Office was rejected on the grounds Badenoch used her personal Twitter account, had said during the row: “One of my reporters has had to make her Twitter profile private today because a *government minister* tweeted out screenshots of a completely standard request for comment on a story, and accused her of spreading disinformation. Absolutely extraordinary.”
Philip Davies, a former member of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, told the Telegraph: “This proposed appointment shows the BBC has learnt absolutely nothing about why it has lost touch with huge swathes of the country.
“If they really think that what they are short of is a left-wing, politically correct Remainer then they have truly lost the plot.”
Left picture: Huffpost