I’ve been taking a look at the Foxes that John Wittingdale has chosen to put in charge of the British Broadcasting Henhouse, otherwise known as the BBC. Rather more dogs than vixens, as it happens, so lets take a look at the ladies first.
Lopa Patel. Better get her in first – Lopa founded the Diversity UK thinktank where she spearheaded the first ever public appointments survey conducted among ethnic minority individuals. Daren’t leave her out. She also runs redhotcurry.com a portal website for all things Asian if you are not minded to integrate…it has a TV listing site which dutifully brings news of any programmes that involve the Asian community. Right on!
Then we have Dawn Airey. Dawn launched Channel Five with the memorable strapline of ‘Films, Football, and Fu*king”. Dawn lives with her partner Jacqueline, and their two children conceived with the assistance of a gay friend. She is known in the industry as ‘Scarey Airey’. She once applied for a job at the BBC and ‘the buggers turned me down‘. She has worked for every other major player in the field. She is on record as thinking that the BBC should have some services as subscription.
Dame Bowe. Like Dawn Airey, Collette Bowe is another Liverpudlian. She came up through the ranks of the civil service, working for Norman Tebbit, then a stint with Michael Hessletine, (she was revealed to be the civil servant behind the leaking of the Westland affair) went onto work for Peter Mandelson and eventually was appointed head of Offcom.
Ms Bowe was criticised in a report by the Commons Defence Select Committee in 1986, along with four other civil servants. Her selective leaking of a classified document was, in the view of the Committee, “tendentious”. In a unanimous judgement, the report described her conduct as “improper” and “disreputable”.
She thinks the BBC licence fee should be shared with other broadcasters. A fellow colleague on the Personal Investment Authority with her said:
‘I admire her, but she doesn’t like dissension. You are either on her side or you are not. She will listen to people’s opinions: how much she will be influenced is questionable, because she will often have come to her own conclusions already, and be driving them forward. She is not a half-measures person.’
She has never married either.
We have Alex Mahon, the Jimmy Choo wearing former chief executive of the Murdoch owned ‘Shine’ group, the production house responsible for such cultural titans as ‘Broadchurch’. Prefers Alexander McQueen gowns for evening wear. Lots of useful contacts with the Murdoch group should she vote to reform the BBC out of existence.
Ranged around the table with these formidable ladies, we have:
Darren Henley, a journalist who is an expert on classical music and Chairman of Classic FM. Last year he was appointed Chief Executive of the Arts Council. His mission is to make Classic FM ‘the world’s go to website for classical music’. He is ‘concerned by the danger of unfair competition from the publicly funded BBC Radio 3’. Hmmn.
Then there is Ashley Highfield. A name well-known to local newspapers. Ashley used to be a BBC man, in charge of the online service. Then he became head of the Johnstone Press group of local newspapers. From where he exploded with rage when James Harding described local journalism as ‘one of the biggest market failures in recent years’. It would be fair to say that Ashley thinks that is the fault of the BBC. He thinks the BBC should be giving things like the weather forecast to local newspapers free of charge and helping them.
Stewart Pervis, a journalist who owes his training to the BBCs first class training schedule which gave him skills he took to Channel 4 and ITV – and later to Offcom. He now lectures in journalism at the City University.
Last but not least, we have Andrew Fisher. Andrew is the billionaire CEO of ‘Shazam’. Shazam was set up to provide the technology to answer the all important question of ‘what is that song’ when you are kicking your heels in a deserted shopping centre, listening to music on your mobile. Obviously they had their finger on the pulse of modern life, and a lot of people are doing just that and troubled by just that question – 100 million active users. If you have the app, potentially you can listen to a tune in an advert, identify it, and have a direct link to the advertiser who might offer you a discount on a pair of Nike trainers for instance. Not a lot of application to the BBC – not unless they are forced into the advertising route….
It’s beginning to sound like the ultimate Islington dinner party, a cackle of media types with a sprinkling of vested interests. I don’t see anyone who is likely to represent the views of the bulk of British households that have always funded the BBC.
If this is the shape of the committee I fear the resulting BBC will have more humps than legs…