Friday, 18 Sep 2020

BBC crisis: Lord Hall questioned from within over becoming ‘broadcasting wing of BLM’

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The BBC has come under increasing scrutiny following its decision to play the instrumental version of “Rule, Britannia!” and “Land of Hope and Glory” at the upcoming Last Night of the Proms concert. The decision by the public broadcaster to omit the words from the two famous anthems has even been condemned by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and sparked a row over censorship and the country’s imperial past.

A spotlight on the lyrics featured in the songs has been highlighted in the wake of the noble Black Lives Matter movement.

Rule Britannia! contains the line “Britons never, never, never shall be slaves”, meanwhile Land of Hope and Glory features the verse “By freedom gained, by truth maintained / Thine Empire shall be strong”.

BBC media editor Amol Rajan told the outgoing head of the cooperation, he had been approached by fellow colleagues and listeners who raised concerns over the role of the broadcaster in the wake of recent decisions.

Appearing on The Media Show, Mr Rajan asked: “Several Radio 4 listeners and some senior BBC News colleagues have been in touch with me to raise deep concern that in their view the BBC has in effect become the broadcasting wing of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“One veteran highly respected correspondent here wrote to me: ‘Amol, challenging racial prejudice is a noble cause, but should it be the BBC’s cause? Shouldn’t we just be reporting?’’

“What do you say to that?”

Lord Hall, responded by stressing the need to appeal to a wide range of people and said “’diversity matters” and “getting it right in terms of our broadcasting matters too”.

The 69-year-old also pointed to the BBC’s new £100million diversity fund and the need to better represent people from the BAME community.

He said: “I think ensuring that we are employing people of diverse background, black, Asian, minority ethnic backgrounds, both front and behind the camera is fantastically important.

“And in that way, I go back to, that’s the way you get that diversity of thinking into your programme areas, into your news bulletins, into the dramas and other things that you’re doing.

“That’s why it matters and I have to say we’re making a lot of progress on that.

“Having a fund to commission from existing monies £100million worth of content, of programmes from diverse backgrounds is important – and equally having a 20 percent target for people behind camera and behind microphone from black and Asian minority ethnic backgrounds is important too.”

Lord Hall was then asked whether the BBC was in danger of leaving some people behind by focusing on the younger demographic.

He said: “The BBC has got to appeal to a breadth of opinion and types of people right across the country.

“One of the interesting things about the BBC is you’re dealing with all sorts of fissures in the UK society, and you’ve got to appeal to all those people.

“Whoever you are, whatever background you come from, rich, poor, whatever part of the country you happen to live in, having things that you can share and common goods that bring you together, that you all have access to, is phenomenally important.”


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On the decision by the BBC to axe the lyrics to Rule, Britannia! and Land of Hope and Glory from the Proms on September 12, Lord Hall said the cooperation had reached the “right conclusion” but insisted the vocal version could return in 2021.

BBC has said the decision to drop the lyrics was prompted by COVID-19 restrictions placed on the venue.

Lord Hall said: “The point is they’ve come to the right conclusion which is it’s very very hard in an Albert Hall that takes over 5,000 people to have the atmosphere of the Last Night of the Proms and to have things where the whole audience normally sing along, it’s quite hard creatively, artistically to make that work.

“I think they’ve come to the right conclusion, which is actually to include it instrumentally and who knows what will happen next year, I suspect it will be back.”

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