Saturday 21 September 2019

Free at last!

"For much of my career, I’ve felt rather like the junior butler trying to blag a seat at His Lordship’s dining table in Downton Abbey"

(John Humphrys, on being a working class, non-arts graduate at the BBC)

Just two short days after departing the Today programme, in mourning weeds, with tears in eyes, John Humphrys has seriously let rip at the BBC in (OMG) The Daily Mail...

Feedback will be appalled, and doubtless John's choice of publication and what he has to say there will only confirm to his many left-wing haters on Twitter that he's the right-wing fossil they've been so vociferously asserting he is over recent years. 

Many of his criticism of the BBC will be very familiar, and we've made them ourselves...over many, many years. But it's always good to get it from the horse's mouth, even if the horse felt the need to bolt from the stable first. 

It's a long piece, so I'll try to summarise it:

1. He says he's now free to speak and no longer has to "submit to the BBC Thought Police" his "subversive musings". 

2. The BBC is "a tremendous and irreplaceable force for good" and "this country is the stronger for its existence". "Our democracy needs it" and he's "convinced that it occupies a special place in the nation's heart" and that "we would be poorer without it".

3. The BBC has a "great fear... of the politically correct brigade and the most fashionable pressure groups — usually from the liberal Left, the spiritual home of most bosses and staff".

4. BBC bosses didn't even try to disguise their horror at the result of the EU referendum. It wasn't what they expected or what they wanted. They saw it as "a disaster".
The Brexit crisis had exposed a fundamental flaw in the culture of the BBC. Its bosses, almost to a man and woman, could simply not grasp how anyone could have put a cross in the Leave box on the referendum ballot paper.
Here's a lengthier extract with a telling anecdote:
We note how much time the typical boss spends in meetings — usually with other bosses — and how little in the various news rooms. It’s true that they tend to appear on the mornings after, say, General Elections — offering a few nods and smiles and the odd encouraging remark to the poor bloody infantry who have been slaving away all night. 
The morning of the EU Referendum was different. Leave had won — and this was not what the BBC had expected. Nor what it wanted. 
No nods and smiles when the big bosses appeared. No attempt to pretend that this was anything other than a disaster. 
Their expressions were as grim as the look on the face of a football supporter when his team’s star player misses the penalty that would have won them the cup.
5. The BBC has an "institutional liberal bias". The main reasons for this are (a) its recruitment process, which overwhelmingly hauls in middle-class, university-educated, often private school-educated arts graduates ("and it’s a racing certainty that there won’t be more than a handful of Tories among them") and (b) groupthink:
There is, I believe, a groupthink mentality, an implicit BBC attitude to what makes news. Decisions are influenced, if only subconsciously, by what the organisation has done in the past. So it can too often be willing to settle for the status quo, settling into the same lines of thought.
6. Because of that groupthink, immigration and euroscepticism became two important areas where the BBC "failed so badly to spot a change in the nation's mood".

7. He himself voted Remain in the EU referendum. He's voted for most political parties over the years (though not the far-Right or the far-Left) and considers himself "pitifully middle-of-the-road".

8. The BBC finds it "hard to resist" the temptation to engage in social engineering. It sometimes tries "to create society in its own image" and "places its powerful finger on one side of the scale of social justice":
Which is why I raised my eyebrows when the BBC announced it had created the new post of LGBT correspondent — and the man appointed said: ‘I’m looking forward to being the mouthpiece for some marginalised groups . . .’ It was the use of the word ‘mouthpiece’ that jarred. Obviously, the BBC must give a voice to minorities, but it must not act as anyone’s mouthpiece. That’s what lobbyists and public relations people do. To confuse the two is to undermine the job of a journalist.
9. More and more people at the BBC "conflate and, perhaps. confuse their own interests with those of the wider world...The logic seems to be that if they feel strongly about a given issue, the BBC should not only listen to them but modify its output to reflect their own world view." He cites the example of members of the BBC's LGBT group, including a business presenter, demanding on Twitter that a question on Question Time asking if it was morally inappropriate to teach five-year-olds about LGBT issues shouldn't have been allowed. It's not a good look for people at the BBC to engage in censorship.

10. The BBC's handling of the Carrie Gracie affair and his leaked off-air banter with Jon Sopel about it "made the Kremlin circa 1950 look sophisticated". He doesn't believe he did anything wrong.
I was disappointed by the BBC’s reaction. They might have made the point that my 50 years’ service at the BBC showed that to accuse me of misogyny on the basis of one bit of private banter was risible. Fat chance. Instead, they came up with the typically pompous comment: ‘This was an ill-advised off-air conversation which the presenter regrets.’ And a ‘source’ told the Guardian that ‘management are deeply unimpressed’.
And he's particularly angry at how then-PM presenter Eddie Mair - the real "boss" of PM - handled the story (or, as JH sees it, non-story), going on to complain:
Mair was not a team player. When he joined PM in 2003, it was a straightforward news-based programme. By the time he left, it had become — in my view — a vehicle for his ego.
11. Yes, he enjoys arguing and approaches people in power "with a pretty strong dose of scepticism", but he's come to realise that the "gladiator sport" style of interviewing is far from ideal. What does it actually achieve? "Too many interviewers (present company included)", he says, "are too often more concerned with making headlines than with helping the audience understand the issues at stake." He admits he got "a little heated, too heated" in the past, did "a lot of interrupting" and, to his "great shame", lost his temper at times, but "calmed down" over the years. 

12. Punchline: After 33 years on Today, he "can't deny that he's rather looking forward to tomorrow".


  1. This is of monumental importance. It will be fascinating to see how far to the wolves they now throw him.

    1. No, I think it's hollow. He's probably milking the BBC Licence-payer for the the last penny as he continues as a BBC elder - doing Mastermind and 'celeb' appearances on the One Show, whilst deferring his pension to add to the £1.8 Bn black hole.

    2. He's Just given himself a new angle to make appearances with - and let's wait for the book. Q. Why didn't he speak up when he had the chance? A. Because the money was good, and he didn't want to rock the boat.

    3. I agree with Robin that this is of monumental importance, given John Humphry's prominence as being at the top of the BBC's "talent" tree and because it confirms what nearly everyone here has deduced from the evidence (including over the years, numerous detailed analyses of programmes).

      If the Conservatives weren't the "Useless Party" they would use these quotes on every occasion to counter the biased interviewers of the BBC. "Well, I can see where you are coming from, as the BBC said - you are all institutionally biased towards the EU and against Brexit..."

      That said, I agree with Arthur that it casts Humphrys in a v. poor light that he has waited until the last moment, once his huge store of wealth derived from licence fee payers is safely locked away.

    4. as the BBC said = as John Humphrys said

  2. Thanks for the sumamry Craig! - very useful.

    Re 4, that's a really helpful revelation (though no surprise of course!) and shows that the reports of Tony Hall going round apologising for the result at various Islington dinner parties, on behalf of the BBC, were probably accurate despite his denials. It also explains Nick Robinson aggressive claim that the BBC no longer needed to be balanced after the result and could set about campaiging for cancelling the decision by presenting what it saw as the "objective" evidence (ie its own biased views).

    Re 6 Let's be clear about this one: "Because of that groupthink, immigration and euroscepticism became two important areas where the BBC "failed so badly to spot a change in the nation's mood".

    This doesn't mean the BBC now accept they should reflect the public mood. No, it means, like some dour regime from the Stalin era in Eastern Europe, they have resolved to redouble their ideological efforts, to ensure they promote with even greater energy both the EU and Mass Immigration as both "good things" in every possible way, even though Juncker has with admirable honesty admitted they are building an empire and even though mass immigration has been at the root of a whole series of calamitous societal developments.

    It's great to have all our views and analyses over the years confirmed!!! I used to refer to the PM programme as "The Eddie Mair Show". It was clear his ego was running rampant all over what was meant to be a news programme. It's good Humphrys now sees the redundancy of the "gladitorial" approach to interviewing (except only "Tories" and the "Far Right" ie anyone to the right of Kenneth Clarke were ever thrown to the lions!!!). He admits the BBC is engaged in social engineering.

    This is all good stuff.

    I guess the BBC will make us of 2 above (Humphrys' ludicrous justification for why he didn't get out earlier, I suppose). But expect an attempted character assassination after all those warm words on his departure. I'm off to see what the BBC inhouse journal (The Guardian of course) is saying...

    1. Nothing in the Guardian yet, as far as I can see. Non-reporting by the PC media is normally a sign (as with the Cologne New Year assaults for instance or the natonwide grooming gangs) that their ideology has been dealt a severe blow.

      If the Conservatives had any oomph about them they would already have their public letter to the DG composed - referencing "much respected" John Humphrys' "startling revelations" of "institutional bias" against Brexit and its attempts at "far reaching social engineering".

    2. On this site we say repeatedly that nothing happens by accident at the BBC. The cynic in me says that Humphrys has been allowed to go off piste with their acquiescence. He is at the end of his career so far as genuine journalism is concerned. His outpouring allows the BBC to say: "we accept that our news operations are criticised as being liberal left in bias, but Hey, Look! we've addressed the criticisms and we've found that no, we're not biased". It's the same from the BBC week in week out, they bring up the question of impartiality, 'listen' to criticism, and then reject any such thoughts before carrying on regardless.

    3. The Guardian has gone for it now. Their headline is:

      John Humphrys attacks BBC's 'liberal bias' days after retiring from Radio 4

      Comments from broadcaster, who presented Today show for 32 years, provoked scorn


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