The Cummings-Johnson-Gove clique have made no secret of their contempt for the BBC and desire to bring it to heel. They believe the result of the EU referendum and the 2019 election give them an opportunity to mount a “culture war” on the supposedly “liberal” and “metropolitan” BBC.
Their approach so far, has been to follow Trump’s “fake news” strategy — in which politicians aim to escape accountability by convincing enough supporters that all criticism is based on the lies of a biased “liberal” media.
But now there is clear evidence of a plan to fundamentally undermine the independence of the BBC by appointing two ultra-right wing Brexiters, one of whom is a personal crony of Johnson’s, to key positions of influence over, and within, the BBC. Neither of these characters has any expertise in broadcasting but both have long histories of outspoken hostility towards the BBC and of extreme right wing pronouncements (in the case of Moore, racist and homophobic comments and climate change denial).
Pre-empting normal advertising and recruitment procedures, “No 10” (aka Cummings) let it be known (via the Sunday Times) that the former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre is Johnson’s “choice” to become chairman of Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator, while Charles Moore, former editor of the Daily Telegraph — where he employed Johnson — has been personally requested by Johnson to take up the post of BBC chairman. (A post he has now publicly declined).
Moore’s hostility to the BBC is such that he was once convicted and fined for refusing to pay the licence fee. Even the Tory chair of the parliamentary culture committee, Julian Knight, described Moore as “beyond the pale.”
Under these circumstances, one might expect the UK’s self-proclaimed socialist daily paper to offer at least some defence of public-service broadcasting. But no: according to the Morning Star (editorial 28 Sep), the BBC is not worth defending. It’s already packed full of Tories and it’s been really nasty to Jeremy Corbyn.
Most of all, anyone minded to object to the Tories’ plans needs to understand that: “Public confidence in the political system is so low that flouting its rules is unlikely to carry a heavy cost. And since the BBC is already dominated by Conservatives, objections based on the broadcaster’s supposed objectivity are unlikely to wash. Johnson rode to power on the Brexit cause and he — or at least Dominic Cummings — will understand what made the case against it so unconvincing.
“Warning people trapped in poverty pay and insecure jobs of economic disaster doesn’t work. Labour’s predictions of privatising trade deals threatening our public services were accurate enough, but lost their sting because they were also an accurate picture of the present. Brexit was an argument the status quo was bound to lose since it had so little going for it.”
If I follow that line of argument correctly, it seems to come down to arguing that the Brexit vote makes defending the BBC from Tory attacks a waste of time. Once again the Morning Star lines up with Johnson.
PS: Anyone who doubts my claim that the Morning Star and the CPB back Johnson all the way when it comes to Brexit, should take a look at the front page headline for Friday Oct 2 (pictured): “Bloc Must Drop The Posturing — Left’s uproar as EU launches legal action over Brexit Bill”. That’s right, they’re backing Johnson’s Internal Market Bill against the EU’s move against it because it breaks the Withdrawal Agreement which Johnson signed with the EU just a year ago. “Communist Party of Britain general secretary Rob Griffiths said that the EU Commission was taking legal action ‘even before any breach of the Withdrawal Agreement has occurred’.” These Johnny Foreigners just don’t play fair, do they?