BBC’s dilettante attitude to business is a symptom and cause of its woes
I learned from it that the Today programme’s business team is being moved from London to Salford “in a right-thinking but wrong-headed decision that could have been parodied on the comedy show W1A”, despite the capital being “the centre of big business and finance”. With most company directors remaining in London and some BBC people refusing to relocate, one even hiring a lawyer, and lots of BBC newcomers replacing experienced old-hands, it sounds like a right pig's ear has been made of it.
Oliver Shah's main point, however, is that the BBC has gone backwards in its business coverage and “is no longer serious about company news”. He quotes a BBC insider describing the default BBC position:
This is a longstanding thing. It doesn’t really like business or want to understand it. It has a mindset that it’s all a bit mysterious, and somehow a bit dirty. And maybe, in that, the BBC is a reflection of British society at large.
Greg Dyke tried to change that mindset, bringing in Jeff Randall and putting a business programme in a prime-time spot. Robert Peston and Kamal Ahmed continued to push business stories. But they've all gone and the BBC, Oliver says, has reverted to its bad old ways.
He's criticising it as a fan of the BBC, and says:
On business, Auntie is her own worst enemy. The Today programme’s way of covering the spike in BP and Shell’s profits last week was to bowl underarm questions at academics about the need for a windfall tax. This kind of intellectual laziness justifiably angers those on the right who perceive the BBC as existing in a luvvie bubble.
In this respect, the BBC’s attitude to business is both a symptom and a cause of its troubles with government. The more it produces business content that would embarrass most trainee reporters on The Times or The Telegraph, the more it winds up hawks who want to cut the licence fee, and the more pressure it comes under to find savings — by getting rid of business journalists. For reasons of self-preservation, let alone the blood pressure of listeners who care about free enterprise, director-general Tim Davie and chairman Richard Sharp urgently need to wake up to business.