Friday 15 December 2017

Frantastic news?

Fran Unsworth 

So James Harding's replacement as the BBC's new Director of News and Current Affairs will be Francesca Unsworth. 

What do we know about Fran (besides what we can read on Wikipedia)? 

Well, she's a longstanding BBC insider and presently Director of the World Service, and, according to Guido Fawkes, has a "strong grasp of the impartiality rules". 

That latter bit sounds good, but...

She's also been the chair of the 'independent' BBC Media Action charity - and that's the charity, you may recall, which became controversial for its EU funding and its actions in apparently advancing EU priorities.

I'm not sure that anyone's ever quite got to the bottom of that yet, and it still smells bad to me.

She was (is?) also a board member (as per her BBC Declaration of Personal Interests) on the EU's world-embracing Erasmus Mundus programme.

That's seriously odd, isn't it? With all of her many BBC commitments, why on earth did she get involved at such a high level in a major EU project?

You can read about her 'very BBC' views on how to handle the issue of climate change here and here

Interestingly, she criticised Channel 4's Jon Snow for his impartiality-busting emotionalism over Gaza, saying "If one of our presenters had done something like that in a private capacity on YouTube, I'd have had to have said, this isn't really appropriate in terms of your public role as an impartial presenter of BBC news programmes. We take it very seriously." That's good.

Her BBC Media Action/World Service roles have involved her getting involved in public confrontations with the ayatollahs in Iran over their treatment of BBC staff and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's involvement with BBC Media Action. (See here and here).

On her 'very BBC' dismissive reaction to the Centre for Policy Studies' review of the BBC's coverage of think tanks (the CPS found left-wing bias), see here.

She launched a new North Korean service late this year. She told (Breitbart) The Guardian, "We are reaching an incredibly febrile, dangerous atmosphere at the moment about that whole story, and isn’t it terrible for the people of North Korea that the only information that they getting about any of this is that woman who goes on North Korean television every night?".

Ri Chun-hee, North Korea's answer to Fiona Bruce

Francesca's not featured much on our little blog so far though. 

Good luck in your new job Fran! We'll be watching you.

P.S. Fans of people called 'Unsworth' might recall that wonderful ITV sitcom from the late '70s/early '80s called In Loving Memory, starring Morecambe-born megastar Thora Hird. She played Ivy Unsworth, owner of an undertakers' business. We've got a boxed set of it, and it's still funny (particularly when hilarious things go wrong at funerals with coffins). Who remembers the bassoon-heavy theme tune?

Update: Just a little more background on Francesca Unsworth, the BBC's next Director of News and Current Affairs...

Here's something intriguing from David Keighley's archive over at TCW (from 2014), concerning the BBC's much-criticised helicopter-festooned coverage of Sir Cliff Richard's arrest. It looks as if R Fran was heavily involved in that:
In what looks like a carefully organised off-the-record briefing last night, reporter John Plunkett says that it was deputy director of news Fran Unsworth who gave the go ahead for the coverage. The reason? Because the Corporation is ‘coming under increasing pressure in its news operation to beat rivals to exclusive stories’.


  1. How thick must she, someone deeply involved in the world of news and international broadcasting, be not to know that there are many nations who direct broadcasts to North Korea:

    And anyway, I know she doesn't go on TV "every night"...Grandma is only wheeled out for special occasions. Or as she might say: "SpeshOOOOOOOl occasSHONZ!!!!"

    Two items of fake news in one sentence? That's your modern BBC executive for you...

  2. I wonder if she will be taking over/sidelining/enhancing the Harding #hasthebbcfactcheckedthisyet initiative, currently being roadshowed by failed HoN Kamal which, given his record on facts, errs on the ironic.

  3. If you want to feel the full force of BBC Dull and Dreary then take a look at this:

    According to Fran the BBC has diversity issues...they don't have enough women and ethnic minority reporters...yes, really. That's what she appears to think.

    But even three years ago, the BBC was already hitting all its targets as this report shows:

    I also like the way she implies they have a shortage of applications to join the BBC. Every second student in the land is on a media studies course. The idea that the BBC isn't inundated with applications from every minority group imaginable is absurd.

    Anyway for dead-eyed fish-mouthed recital of PC propaganda, she is clearly unrivalled. Not an ounce of individual personality is allowed to show through.

    This is our country's worryingly Stalinist future.


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