Monday, 21 Sep 2020

Not paying BBC licence fee could be decriminalised as Johnson demands ‘impartiality’

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In the next few days, the BBC will begin its search for its new chair to replace Sir David Clementi. The Government has reportedly been frustrated with the corporation’s news programmes over impartiality. This follows polling from Reuters showing just 28 percent of Britons trust “most news most of the time”.

Government sources told the Sunday Telegraph about what they want from the new chair.

The new BBC chair will be tasked with reviewing trust in its reporting. Whitehall sources involved in the job search also believe applicants need to help guide the BBC through “significant reform”.

This could include the potential decriminalisation of not paying the licence fee.

The new chair will be expected to work with new director general Tim Davie.

Mr Davie is believed by ministers to be in the “mood to be radical” in reforming the BBC.

The new chair will also be “beefed up” substantially, based on the Government’s desire for the role to be influential in driving change.

Government insiders have downplayed suggestions there is a favourite to take over Sir Clementi’s role, but the Sunday Telegraph claimed former Tory cabinet minister Nicky Morgan has been touted as a major contender.

A Government source told the Sunday Telegraph complaints are mostly based around “considerable concern around impartiality and objectivity”.

They added: “Lots of people think its news programmes seem only to be interested in picking holes in the Government or digging up embarrassing quotes.

“They are far less interested in listening to what ministers have to say than trying to trip them up in a way that is not entirely relevant.

“The job of the Today programme is not to chase headlines, but to ask probing questions.

“Newsnight is no better. It’s a relatively recent trend.”

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The change in leadership follows Downing Street ordering a temporary boycott of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme over its general election coverage.

Last week, the corporation’s Newsnight policy editor Lewis Goodall was accused of “off the scale” bias for writing for a left-leaning magazine attacking the Government’s coronavirus response.

Presenter Emily Maitlis also brought the corporation under fire for a monologue criticising Boris Johnson’s chief aide Dominic Cummings.

Ms Maitlis was reprimanded for the speech, which brought in 247 Ofcom complaints for breaching impartiality rules.

It also follows polling suggesting that faith in UK media has plummeted.

Data from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism Digital News Report 2020 showed that just 28 percent of people said they trust “most news most of the time”.

The trend shows a drop of 22 points from January last year, which saw 48 percent of Britons trust news most of the time.

Lead author Nic Newman said of the report: “Divided societies seem to trust the media less, not necessarily because the journalism is worse but because people are generally dissatisfied with institutions in their countries and because news outlets often carry more views that people disagree with.”

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