This is a a BBC insider abandoning ship. It’s a spectacular case study in why big government can bollocks up any noble proposition, or honest profession. It’s how leadership dissolves into uninspired management as people spend other people’s money. How teams of people who no longer believe, all go through the motions. There’s no competition for the best scoop, for mass ratings, for ideas that push the bounds. The bounds are fixed. Sissons speaks his mind without holding back. — JN
Left-wing bias? It’s written through the BBC’s very DNA, says Peter Sissons
For 20 years I was a front man at the BBC, anchoring news and current affairs programmes, so I reckon nobody is better placed than me to answer the question that nags at many of its viewers — is the BBC biased?
In my view, ‘bias’ is too blunt a word to describe the subtleties of the pervading culture. The better word is a ‘mindset’. At the core of the BBC, in its very DNA, is a way of thinking that is firmly of the Left.
I lost count of the number of times I asked a producer for a brief on a story, only to be handed a copy of The Guardian and told ‘it’s all in there’.
…the one thing guaranteed to damage your career prospects at the BBC is letting it be known that you are at odds with the prevailing and deep-rooted BBC attitude towards Life, the Universe, and Everything.Whatever the United Nations is associated with is good — it is heresy to question any of its activities. The EU is also a good thing, but not quite as good as the UN. Soaking the rich is good, despite well-founded economic arguments that the more you tax, the less you get. And Government spending is a good thing, although most BBC people prefer to call it investment, in line with New Labour’s terminology.All green and environmental groups are very good things. Al Gore is a saint. George Bush was a bad thing, and thick into the bargain. Obama was not just the Democratic Party’s candidate for the White House, he was the BBC’s. Blair was good, Brown bad, but the BBC has now lost interest in both.
But whatever your talent, sex or ethnicity, there’s one sure-fire way at a BBC promotions board to ensure you don’t get the job, indeed to bring your career to a grinding halt. And that’s if, when asked which post-war politician you most admire, you reply: ‘Margaret Thatcher’.
It had been very different at ITN where I began my career as a television journalist. It had a tremendous esprit de corps and bosses whom you would follow over the top when they blew the whistle. You were always aware that someone was in charge who would say the seven most important words in any newsroom: ‘Here’s what we are going to do.’
Working at ITN wasn’t always a bed of roses. I can remember fights and disagreements, strikes and setbacks. But I never felt the chronic lack of motivation that comes when you work for an organisation that is rudderless.
ITN, it must be said, had the advantage of being small. The BBC, by contrast, has become so big and complex that it is virtually unmanageable. Those at the top of one of the world’s greatest communications businesses seem to find it impossible to communicate on a personal level with those who work for them.
Many of them were once convivial colleagues, but the dead hand of the BBC knocks the stuffing out of them, and the climate of fear — fear usually of making a decision — finishes them off.
What it lacks is a leader whose lodestone isn’t The Guardian; who will draw a line on political correctness; who’s not afraid to hire some people who don’t fit the BBC template; who will kick backsides when merited; who will promote solely on talent; who will remind all interest groups that they don’t have an entitlement to BBC airtime; and who will do the job for the prestige and not the money.Too many senior executives were just playing out their roles, oblivious to how irrelevant they had become to what was actually being done in the news factory below. Colleagues told me that they had not just lost respect for their highly-paid bosses, what they felt was now total contempt. What they were looking for was leadership, and all they got was management.
…as I drove home that evening, I asked myself if I wanted to go on working for the BBC. By the time I arrived home, I’d decided to leave.
Extracted from When One Door Closes by Peter Sissons, published on February 2 by Biteback Publishing at £17.99. © Peter Sissons 2011. To order a copy at £14.99 (p&p free), call 0845 155 0720..