Jeremy Hunt: BBC News needs more Tories

Shadow culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said today the BBC News needed to recruit more Conservatives to counter its ‘innate liberal bias’.

Speaking to journalists at a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch, Hunt said it was important that the BBC was representative of all political points of views.

He said: “I wish they would go and actively look for some Conservatives to be part of their newsgathering team, because they have acknowledged that one of their problems is that people who want to work at the BBC tend to be from the centre-left.

“That’s why they have this issue with what Andrew Marr called an innate liberal bias. I think the important thing with the BBC is that it belongs to all of us.”

Hunt referred to a comments made by BBC former political editor Andrew Marr, in November, 2007, saying he believed there was an ‘innate liberal bias’ inside the BBC caused by its abnormally large proportion of younger people, ethnic minorities and gay people working for the publicly-funded urban organisation.

Reports emerged earlier today that the BBC was actively looking to recruit a female newsreader over 50 to reflect the varied ages of viewers and to counter accusations of ageism.

The shadow culture secretary got involved in the debate about ageism at the BBC after being asked by journalists if the corporation’s initiative to hire an older, female newsreader suggested there was something systemically wrong.

Hunt said: “I think you’re probably right if they are having to put adverts in like that [for a 50 plus newsreader] then it indicates that there’s a problem that needs to be addressed.”

He went on to say local media in the UK was ‘totally inadequate’ and that a much bolder approach was needed to allow media organisations to evolve and develop new business models.

In July, Hunt outlined the Conservative vision for the overhaul of local TV news provision which could see local newspaper companies could step in to produce local and regional TV news on ITV.

This contrasts with the Government’s proposal to ‘top-slice’ up to £130m annually from the license fee to help fund a series of local news consortia across the country.

The Tories instead propose creating a range of about 80 local media companies – delivering TV, print and online services to regional and local communities without any state funding.

Hunt said: “At the moment what we have got is effectively tinkering, trying not to lose things that we are fond of, but I don’t feel there is a strong sense of vision behind what the government is doing, in terms of possibilities for the future.”

Hunt said that regulation – through Ofcom and the Competition Commission – was actively preventing the emergence of new business models.

“If I was trying to set up a local media business in Liverpool that was viable, I would want to be able to go to advertisers in Liverpool and say ‘come to my organisation, I can offer you a newspaper and a website, a TV station and a radio station. If you want to reach people in Liverpool you need to talk to me’…

“Advertisers always want the ability to reach people in defined geographical locations. At the moment our regulations make that incredibly difficult.”

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