Saturday 29 April 2017

Ofcom (update)

Kevin Bakhurst

If you recall, last October a study by News-watch found that 10 out of the 13 members of the new Ofcom board charged with being the independent court of appeal for complaints against the BBC had close links to the BBC themselves. 

Though there has been one change to Ofcom's Content Board since then, it has simply reaffirmed the body's BBC links, with James Thickett, former Controller of Business Strategy at the BBC, being replaced by a very familiar name to BBC watchers - Kevin Bakhurst, former Deputy Head of the BBC Newsroom and Controller of the BBC News Channel, as well as Editor of the Ten O’Clock News. (He was forever on the BBC's own Newswatch telling us that the corporation had got it about right about whatever it was he'd been brought onto the programme to defend). 

I was thinking of this again because of an excellent comment at Biased BBC yesterday which included the following paragraph:
At time of writing 9 [he'd missed the past links of Dr. Zahera Harb to BBC Arabic, not mentioned on the Ofcom websiteof the 13 members of the Ofcom Content Board responsible for overseeing the BBC’s impartiality are ex-BBC employees. This is untenable. The arrangement is comparable to the hypothetical scenario of suing someone for libel only to arrive at the court to find that most of the members of the jury are ex-employees of the accused. This would never happen, for good and obvious reasons. In my opinion those charged with judging the BBC’s impartiality should be people with no previous employment at the BBC, and their judgments should not be subject to review by ex-BBC employees anywhere in the Ofcom management chain.
Though maybe asking for no people with previous employment at the BBC might be going too far, the point about the sheer scale of the Board's personal links to the BBC is an important one, and the commenter's "hypothetical scenario" makes for a sharp analogy.

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