Saturday 28 November 2020

Moving on up

President Liz Bonnin

For some time now it's been quite evident that the BBC has been grooming Liz Bonnin to take over from Sir David Attenborough

She's a personable presenter and clearly knows her stuff, though with the BBC's obsessive pursuit of a very particular kind of diversity you can never quite rule out motives other than simple merit (of which she has plenty) for her rise. 

Of course, that obsessive pursuit is so pervasive now that the suspicion that merit alone isn't the key for someone's rise is far from being just a BBC matter. She's now also been made the first female president of the Wildlife Trusts, for example. Probably deservedly so - except that the newly-appointed vice-president of the Wildlife Trusts just happens to be another female BBC presenter of colour, Gillian Burke of Springwatch/Autumnwatch

The appointment of two BBC presenters to the top jobs in such a powerful, influential organisation (the Wildlife Trusts covers 2,300 nature reserves over 243,000 acres of countryside) obviously raises impartiality issues too. 

Liz herself says that she wants to use the position "to enforce the changes that must take place in order to secure a brighter future for our wild places,” which sounds rather like campaigning to me.

The appointments will raise questions about BBC presenters’ outside roles after Tim Davie, the director-general, warned he would fire stars who make major breaches of impartiality guidelines on social media.
Vice-President Gillian Burke
The impartiality issue is especially relevant as far as Liz Bonnin goes. A BBC One programme documentary last year, Meat: A Threat to our Planet?, has been removed from the BBC iPlayer after the corporation's Executive Complaints Unit ruled that it wasn't impartial. The ECU said that "viewers received a partial analysis of the impact of livestock farming on the global environment and biodiversity, based almost exclusively on intensive farming methods and of limited application to the choices open to UK consumers.  In the judgement of the ECU, this fell below the BBC’s standards of impartiality in relation to controversial subjects."

Of course, having a programme taken off the iPlayer for breeching BBC impartiality guidelines won't harm Liz's BBC career. She's set to narrate one of the next big BBC natural history series, Penguins: Meet the Family.

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