Mainstream media debate this summer focused on the fact that some extremely overpaid women at the BBC are not overpaid to quite the same extent as some extremely, extremely overpaid men. This is reminiscent of the fuss over the US having a male kleptocratic president, when it could have had a female kleptocratic president.
Personally I support the notion that pay should be equalised at the BBC – provided it is equalised down at the top and up at the bottom.
But the real problem of massive salaries at the BBC is one the media entirely missed. The BBC has 98 bureaucrats who are each paid more than the Head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or the UK’s Ambassador to the European Union. What is more, this great store of ludicrously overpaid non-jobs is simply an additional resource for pillaging public funds by the right wing political class.
The British media is obsessed with Scaramucci doing the fandango, but there has been little or no adverse comment on his UK opposite number, Robbie Gibb, appointed by Theresa May as Director of Communications in No. 10. And where had Gibb previously been picking up a very large salary? The BBC, as the editor of the programmes of arch Tory, Andrew Neil. Now Gibb is on the right of the Tory Party with close personal contacts to UKIP. He had picked up his plumb job in the BBC straight from working for – the Tory Party. He was a very junior journalist very early in his career, but it was his Tory Party connections that got him the executive BBC job. His brother is a Tory minister. And now he has gone back again through the Tory/BBC revolving door to continue his career as a Tory propagandist – the entire career entirely paid for by you and me, as taxpayers and license payers.
The other candidate for the No. 10 job was another highly paid BBC Tory, Diplomatic Editor James Landale.
Over ten years ago I was invited to a BBC symposium in Cambridge where BBC bureaucrats, producers and writers were introduced to “interesting” people to spark their creative juices. I first met Armandio Iannucci there. I also met a young BBC executive named Craig Oliver. It is not with hindsight, he genuinely did strike me as an extremely unpleasant young Gordon Gekko, and for his part he could barely conceal his contempt for me as a whistleblower. When he left the BBC to join No. 10 as David Cameron’s Director of Communications, I was unsurprised. But again the question arises – how do these politicians get those BBC jobs, presumably against competition from media professionals?
Looking at both that BBC “talent list”, and that BBC top bureaucrat list, there are a number of people whose politics we really do know – from their history and statements. They range from the right wing Blairite loyalist James Purnell, through the ultra Tory James Harding, former editor of Murdoch’s Times, to “out” Tories like Sarah Sands (editor of the Today programme), Nick Robinson, Andrew Neil and James Landale. There are others like Kuenssberg who make their personal views entirely clear in their reporting.
But the truth is this. While I am certain of the politics of 13 people on the BBC highly paid talent or senior staff list, and I am pretty sure I know the politics of some twenty others, they span the political spectrum from Tony Blair to UKIP.
There genuinely is not one person on the BBC highly paid staff list whom I have any reason to believe is to the left of Blair. In a country where 4% of the British population are Scottish nationalists, there should be ten of those between those two lists too. I can’t identify a single one.
It says a lot that the most left wing senior person at the BBC is Gary Lineker.
40% of the country voted for a Labour Party well to the left of the identifiable views of any one of the BBC’s highly paid staff. The lack of socialists and Scottish nationalists on the lists is a far more important issue than the question of why a few more women do not earn over £300,000 a year.
How the BBC’s highly paid staff came to mirror precisely the BBC’s well-established version of the Overton Window is an interesting study in the interplay of cause and effect. But one thing is very plain. The kind of revolutionary change that is needed by the mass of the people requires a personnel clear-out and reform across the BBC, the judiciary and many other public institutions, that goes much deeper than changing some politicians at Westminster.