About David Elstein

David Elstein is Chairman of openDemocracy's Board. He is also Chairman of the Broadcasting Policy Group and a director of Kingsbridge Capital Advisors. 

Articles by David Elstein

This week's editor

Mariam Ali

Mariam Ali is Associate Editor for openDemocracy's Arab Awakening page.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

The election debates: winners and losers?

The broadcasters appear to have settled on a format for the UK election debates. But who won and who lost in this stand-off?

'Pinkoes and Traitors': a tunnel vision of broadcasting history

Jean Seaton’s latest history of the BBC is mired by typos, inconsistencies and factual errors. Far from incidental, this is symptomatic of a broader carelessness that ultimately undermines her analysis. 

The ‘Election Debates’ debate: is legislation the answer?

Ed Miliband has promised legislation that would see regulators imposing a debate structure at future general elections. Could it work? And is that the best answer? 

Could the BBC survive without the licence fee?

If licence fees are decriminalised, the BBC could lose £200 million a year in unpaid debts. Adopting a subscription system would be fairer and free it from political control

Lose the licence fee, abolish the Trust

A new House of Commons report sets out the issues for the forthcoming review of the BBC Charter. It calls for the abolition of the BBC Trust and a long-term replacement for the licence fee. 

Leon Brittan and Channel 4: an unsung role

A role not mentioned so far in the obituaries. In memoriam.

Leader debates: Cameron’s calculations

The broadcasters can't "empty chair" the Prime Minister - he may well get what he wants.

August 1914: another foreign war, another dodgy dossier

A new book throws startling new light on how Britain went to war in 1914, and how it published a deceptive document to try and explain the decision: what the author calls “a dodgy dossier”.

Broadcasting and the referendum

Claire Enders, the redoubtable media analyst, has taken a pasting today from over one hundred Guardian readers angered by her pessimistic prognosis for Scottish media, should “yes” prevail on Thursday.

‘An Honourable Woman’: an argument in two parts on how to judge a political drama

Diane Langford is angered by a BBC2 drama that purports to reflect the political realities in the Arab/Israeli conflict, yet in its “even-handedness” inescapably misrepresents the issues. But perhaps we are being told: don’t take all this plot stuff too seriously – I am writing drama, not history or current affairs. 

The BBC and the Scottish referendum

Lord Birt suggests a yes vote in Scotland would be a threat to the BBC. It needn't be.

The 40 lies the BBC tells about subscription

BBC's Head of Policy, James Heath, packs a staggering amount of untruths into a single post on the BBC blog.

Bigger or smaller? Who is right? Rupert or Tony?

An examination of the recent flow of speeches and deal proposals by leading media players, to see what clues to the future of the BBC they offer.

A schoolgirl was murdered

The task of driving invasions of privacy out of press behaviour does not require constant invocation of the death of 13-year-old Milly Dowler a dozen years ago.

The BBC’s Great War: a response by David Elstein

David Elstein responds to Adrian van Klaveren and Mark Hayhurst's defence of their WW1 programming.

The BBC's Great War

There are always two disciplines in play when broadcasting tackles history: one is broadcasting, the other is history. And the needs of broadcasting usually come first, as they do, in David Elstein's opinion, in the earliest of the 2500 hours worth of programming the BBC is transmitting in memory of the Great War.

Turning the tanker

Good-bye BBC 3! For David Elstein this signals not the end of civilisation but the inevitable consequences of cuts and changes – and speaks to how the new D-G is dealing with his Trustees.

Crimewatch: dupers or duped?

The October edition of Crimewatch, focussing on the case of Madeleine McCann, featured new photofits of a potential suspect - only, they weren't new. According to the Sunday Times, they had been repressed by the McCanns themselves. The failure of the BBC to report this is extraordinary.

Broadcasting for Scotland

Scotland's bid for autonomy is also a chance to build an independent media, one that is not based in London and puts Scottish perspectives first.

The BBC's structure may no longer be sustainable

The fiasco over severence payments at the BBC highlights far more deep-rooted problems at the BBC. Besides this astonishing largesse with public money there are fundamental cracks in governance structure that must surely be addressed.

Squandering public money, BBC style

The culture of severance packages at the BBC has been exposed as so reckless with public money that there is talk of the police being brought in. Here's why.

After 'The Fall'

The BBC needs to make a principled shift of resources in its drama offerings; less than it has spent in recent years in disposing of surplus bureaucrats.

An evening with the Iron Lady

David Elstein vividly recalls Thatcher coming to the studio for a 'live', hour long interview, followed by two whiskies and a cheery rebuke that no one really cares about monetarism.

Broadchurch: a surprise ending for an ITV drama

In which the critic reverses a bit of advice he gave the writer on trusting people, maybe not including our neighbours, and ponders the latest mass TV audience.

The tone at the top: on the new BBC

How is the new Director General of the BBC faring? Can he guide the institution out of crisis? A good first bold step would be to put the 'single voice' on trial, and go instead for plurality and flexibility.

A dramatic intervention

Of course, American support for costly drama is welcome, and helps keep the UK in the game, but the fact is that US-commissioned drama is simply in a different league.

The battle over UK press regulation: Nigel Warner joins our discussion

Last week, David Elstein, chairman of the Broadcasting Policy Group and openDemocracy, criticised two key proposals on press regulation following the Leveson Report. Here is his piece, published with responses from Nigel Warner, author of the 'Life after Leveson' IPPR pamphlet, and Brian Cathcart, co-founder of campaign Hacked Off, which drafted the Leveson Bill.

The licence fee is a fetter on the BBC

The creative and journalistic ambitions of the BBC are held back by its dogmatic commitment to an ineffective and unethical funding mechanism. A subscription service would release creative energy and allow the BBC to fulfil its commitment to public service broadcasting all the better.

Jimmy Savile and the BBC: The Pollard Report

The BBC commissioned a £2 million investigation into why it failed to broadcast what it knew about Jimmy Savile, possibly the most famous TV personality of late 20th century Britain, and instead transmitted tributes to the serial child abuser after he died. The report identified catastrophic mis-management and will do the power of good if its recommendations are carried out but... unanswered questions remain.   

OurBeeb forum session 1: funding and the licence fee

On 31 October 2012, OurBeeb held a day-forum at King’s College London to discuss the future of the BBC. Full audio and video highlights start with a discussion between David Elstein and Lis Howell on how to fund public service broadcasting. 

Leveson: remit fulfilled

The press is very likely to adopt Leveson's proposals. Despite criticism, his public inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the UK press has done its job.

Good guy, bad process – another failure by the BBC Trust

The scandal at the BBC takes another turn. First, it suppressed a programme it should have made, revealing its leading star was a child abuser. Then, it transmits one alleging a retired colleague of Margaret Thatcher was an abuser when he wasn't. Now, it appoints a new boss at three times the Prime Minister's salary, in secret in just a few days. It may be a solution but it exposes a systemic problem.

Governance and accountability at the BBC: the lessons from the Savile affair

The Jimmy Savile scandal has illuminated deep cracks in the BBC’s governance. A culture of immunity and blame shifting must now be faced head on for the sake of the victims and the future of the corporation. 

Savile-gate: George Entwistle's first big test

The BBC’s decision to broadcast two tributes to Jimmy Savile while shelving a Newsnight investigation into allegations of sexual offences was a serious error of judgement. George Entwistle must now deploy the broadcaster’s considerable resources to establish what really happened and face up to his own culpability. 

What can the impassioned US political drama 'The Newsroom' tell us about the BBC's exaggerated commitment to impartiality in broadcasting?

US drama ‘The Newsroom’ demonstrates a bold attempt to meld romantic idealism with a cogent critique of the American far-right. If George Entwistle is to fulfill his aspirations and bolster BBC programming, the remit of ‘impartiality’ must be reformulated to allow the expression of positive liberty.

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