Should BBC presenters be allowed to express their views about the future of the BBC and in particular of the licence fee?

    BBC Broadcasting House

    Nick Ross is only the latest of a significant number to opine. And he would doubtless argue that he has every right to do so since:
    1. He is a freelance who is not on the staff of the Corporation (like me)
    2. The Corporation is supposed to stand for free speech and not for the censorship of debate
    3. His primary loyalty is to public service broadcasting not to the organisation which is designed to deliver it

    However presenters like John Humphrys are now on the staff. Should they be silent?

    It is required of them that they do not publically express their views on controversial subjects since that would affect the audience’s view of their handing of such subjects on air, and interviewees, particularly politicians, would not be slow to claim that the presenter’s personal bias was evident in the questions asked. 

    John Humphrys

    Nonetheless some presenters like John Humphrys do publically express their views on the BBC and some would argue this is to the Corporation’s credit.

    The Today presenter defends the comments he made about the BBC in a recent interview.


    What other organisation would tolerate such openness or insubordination?

    Mind you, if I was the Director General Tony Hall, trying to mastermind Charter Renewal and the licence fee negotiations in the face of some vitriolic and self-interested media criticism, I would not be best pleased.

    You will be relieved to know that you do not have to suffer my views on the BBC’s future, as presenting Feedback does mean I have to remain neutral, however I will try and say something controversial on the issue.

    It is this. Don’t take too much notice of what presenters say because most don’t know much about the issues involved.

    I speak as someone who has been on both sides of the fence, a former BBC executive (dispensed with in politically sensitive times) as well as a presenter.

    The latter are primarily performers, preoccupied with the content of the programmes they are presenting. If they have a strong journalistic background they probably think most management is a waste of time and see its representatives as roadblocks to be driven around.

    Many know little, and care less, about budgets, training and other issues. So don’t pay too much attention to them, or me.

    BBC executives are, of course, self-interested when discussing the future of the organisation that feeds and clothes them, but many do care passionately about the BBC and public service broadcasting. Some presenters are just self-centred.

    Having said that (you see I am BBC to the core of my being and have to present the other side and, some would say, climb back on the fence), Nick Ross is one of the most interesting and thoughtful broadcasters around!

    Enough of these esoteric issues, as Bill Clinton might have said, it’s the programmes, stupid! The Controller of Radio 4 said she wanted to introduce anarchy into Radio 4 through the so-called Character Invasion. This week on Feedback we asked her commissioning editor for drama, Jeremy Howe, all about it. Here is our feature:

    Feedback hears from listeners and Radio 4's commissioning editor for drama, Jeremy Howe.

    In the next few weeks, the Radio 4 controller, the editor of The Archers and the editor of Today are all coming onto Feedback. So please let me know what you want me to ask on your behalf. I am your highly paid servant. (I jest.)

    Roger Bolton

    Listen to Feedback

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