BBC Broadcasting House in central London/photo - Political Scrapbook
During the search for the last but one Director General of the BBC in the summer of 2012, Open Democracy ran a six month project called OurBeeb. The BBC has an annual income of £3.6 billion pounds paid for by the public. It is governed by a Royal Charter which comes up for renewal in 2016. OurBeeb looked at the appointment process for the DG (the BBC’s chief executive) and at the usual issues affecting the BBC – justification for the licence fee, the management structure, the stance and standard of the news, neutrality, diversity. OurBeeb started a petition signed by more than 4,000 people in four days, asking for greater transparency about the process for selecting the DG. The man (and so far it always has been) who leads the BBC needs to be a skilful politician, an inspirational manager, and also a creative. These were the things OurBeeb was discussing when it was overtaken by events and BBC insider George Entwistle took up the role.
And that should have been that – but then things exploded. The Savile debacle led to Entwistle’s resignation, and shock wave followed shockwave.
Now, Tony Hall, Lord Hall of Birkenhead, is Director General, after yet another oblique process. He says he has “come home” after more than a decade at the helm of the Royal Opera House. It is his responsibility to lead a BBC which is often described as bloated and rocked by scandal. Several of its stars from the Seventies have been carted off to court, it has been lambasted by the Public Accounts Committee for overpaying redundant managers, and its record on female representation on air is worse than either Sky or ITV. Yet Lord Hall believes the public still unconditionally love the Beeb, and his speech yesterday entitled “What Next?” outlined a big-picture future at yet greater expense.
Some loved the speech. Some hated it. But where is the objective forum to discuss it? Newspapers and other broadcasters inevitably have an agenda. But openDemocracy does not.
So welcome to the new, regenerated OurBeeb2. This time it is not a short term project. It is work in progress. It aims to be here as a constant forum where all matters relating to the BBC can be argued, discussed, and developed in the context of supporting a pluralist space for public service broadcasting. OurBeeb2 does not have an agenda. It neither BBC bashes nor does it BBC worship, although there may be contributions of either shade. So far the structure looks like this:-
OurBeeb Advisory Panel – chair Lis Howell, members including David Elstein, Anthony Barnett and Rosemary Bechler, with others TBA.
OurBeeb Editor – Professor Brian Winston of the University of Lincoln
Executive Editors – Adam Ramsay and Oliver Huitson, Our Kingdom
To ensure this is not just a collection of essays from the usual suspects, there will be a panel of media/journalism students who will be polled monthly about matters affecting the BBC, and articles can be submitted by anyone, including BBC staff. Our first pieces will be appearing as soon as the dust has settled after the “What Next?” speech.
OurBeeb2 is a positive response to Lord Hall’s call for the BBC to be ‘my’ BBC. We believe that more importantly it is ‘our’ BBC and there needs to be an unbiased open public sphere where our ownership, our responsibility, our needs and our expectations can be published. Welcome to OurBeeb2.