BBC critics ramp up their attacks

Posted on Jun 13, 2015

The Daily Mail and The Sun have this week ramped up their attacks on the BBC, perhaps sensing blood following the General Election and the appointment of BBC critic John Whittingdale as culture secretary.

The most desperate of the Mail‘s recent criticisms of the BBC picks up on what newspapers Auntie reads. We’ve seen this story before. It was a pretty shaky story back in 2012 and still doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny now. 

“The BBC has been accused of ‘propping up its friends in the Left-wing media'” claims the Mail, adding the Guardian is “the most popular title in its offices by far” with 80,679 copies bought last year. “By far” is possibly a stretch. The total number of copies of the Guardian circulating at the BBC last year outnumbered copies of the second-placed Daily Mail (78,463) by just 2.7%. Third-placed was The Times (77,167) and fourth The Telegraph (75,308) suggesting right-wing newspapers are more than well-represented within the BBC.

In fact, the overall figures reveal right-wing newspapers circulating around the BBC outnumber left-wing papers considerably.



The Mail is keen to paint the Guardian sales as proof of political bias, but given the Guardian’s focus on covering the media industry in-depth it is easy to imagine it is relevant to more people and more departments within the BBC than many of its competitors.

Meanwhile, The Sun this week claimed: “BEEB BLOWS £100k A WEEK ON PR GURUS”. It was a story eagerly seized upon by the Mail who went with lower case and decided to write the number out in full: “BBC blows £100,000 a week on PR gurus“.

However, neither headline was particularly accurate. The Mail explained: “the BBC hired 11 firms [including] well-known market leaders? Deloitte, KPMG and PWC” – none of which, it should be pointed out, are “well-known” PR companies or even “gurus” for that matter.

Perhaps both papers thought explaining the BBC had spent a lot of money on auditing, accounting, systems integration and management consultancy, as most large firms do, didn’t sound profligate enough so went with “PR gurus” instead.

The Mail wasn?t even sure what these companies were doing at the BBC but suggests they may have been advising on things such as “health and safety” and “money”.

You could argue the Mail firing off an angry article when they didn?t really know what they were angry about is a bit shoddy, but actually that’s also the BBC’s fault according to the Taxpayers’ Alliance who are never far away from such stories.

?The Taxpayers’ Alliance? told MailOnline the BBC should ‘come clean’ on exactly what the consultants were brought in to do. Andy Silvester, campaign director for the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: ‘Licence fee payers deserve more transparency. Consultants can occasionally help save money in the long term but how can you judge that if we have no idea what they are doing on a day to day basis.?

Good question. How can you judge this without all the facts? Quite easily apparently. The Mail is certainly in no doubt that this is an outrageous sum of money. However, the Mail doesn?t tell us what would be a reasonable amount of money for an organisation the size of the BBC to spend with such companies. 

A BBC spokesman told the Mail:

“On occasion, just like any other organisation, we use external companies for specialist services. This saves the BBC millions of pounds because it is cheaper than employing permanent, full-time staff to carry out work which could only last a short period.”

And finally…to the weather. The Sun, the Mail, the Telegraph and a host of other outlets have all picked up a story this week about the BBC apparently recruiting an unqualified, disabled weather presenter.


The headlines from The Sun and the Mail. (Hat tip Tim Fenton)

The story isn’t quite as billed, of course. There is no job and there is no job ad and the BBC certainly isn’t about to put an inexperienced weather presenter on-screen based purely on the fact they are disabled. Rather there is BBC Academy course offering experience and training to would-be weather presenters with a disability: 

“The BBC Academy is running a free training opportunity to provide an introduction to the world of weather presenting to help men and women with a disability feel comfortable appearing on television, radio and online presenting weather bulletins.”

Participants will be given training and “experience in presenting weather bulletins to camera” but crucially there is no promise of a job at the end. Those who complete the training “will be eligible to apply for future vacancies in the team” but the suggestion the BBC is in the process of appointing a weather presenter on a “no qualifications necessary, must be disabled” basis is a clear distortion.

For more of this sort of thing, see:
BBC bashed for “lavish” lambing largesse
Telegraph bashes BBC for doing its research
“Champagne perks” turn out to be meeting rooms
BBC braced for Glasto “junket” jibes
Daily Mail admits BBC claims were wrong… but repeats them anyway

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