The Real Problem With the BBC 116

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.

116 thoughts on “The Real Problem With the BBC

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  • giyane

    Craig , please stop talking sense, you’re making my head spin. When chemical Ali was brought to trial and charged he replied ” Alhamdulillah “meaning ” yes I would do the same thing again tomorrow if given the chance.” The head of state always has to remain a little statesmanlike while the entourage, well the BBC revolving door is the entourage.

  • Orlando Quarmby

    “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.”

    All of which would be achieved at a stroke in Scotland, of course, by independence.

    • craig Post author

      Orlando, Independence is an important step, but the unionist establishment still need to be cleared out of the institutions.

      • llornamac

        Most definitely! And hopefully rid our country of the elite paedophile rings which are entrenched in the higher eshelons of society.

  • Philip Wagstaff

    Shared on Downham Market Labour unofficial Facebook as have so many more of Craig’s excellent, knowledgeable and factual essays. Unfortunately it is a secret site for LP members only but I assure you it is there.

  • Tony Little

    Craig, isn’t it also interesting that BBC Scotland has a strong contingent of “Labour” ties while London leans more openly to the right? Is it not simply the case of the Establishment mouthpiece echoing and supporting (by commission or omission) the party that is most likely to ensure its continuance? In Scotland, that’s Labour, and in the rUK it’s Tory?

    • Shatnersrug

      Most of the Conservative party and 65% of the PLP are state actors they represent the establishment and the controlled opposition I have no doubt that some of the SNP are as well. There is a nexus of control that will take a lot more than a vote on independence to remove. They all answer to the American state, the British State and now more worryingly the completely unhinged Israeli state.

  • terry heyes

    I seem to have the impression that the BBC seems full of Guardian-reading lefties – maybe that’s formed by all those dreary and predictable ‘comedians’ on quiz panel shows etc. The culture of the BBC doesn’t seem ‘Tory’ in the least. it’s pro-EU, pro-multicultural, pro-‘refugee’, atheist. You can tick the usual boxes.
    I gave up watching it myself, got rid of my TV twenty years ago so I wouldn’t have to pay the license fee.
    I really hope the BBC becomes subscription, so all the people who like it can pay for it and I can own a TV set once again.
    Until then, my PC and online ‘alternative’ news media does the job.

    • Janet Marks

      So you must be getting your impression of the BBC from the radio, if you got rid of your TV 20 years ago. But it sounds, from what you say, that you haven’t even been listening to the radio much recently. I listen every day and can tell you that there is very little pro-EU material on the BBC, and a mysterious silence about what is happening to the NHS, except for the occasional repetition of a govt. announcement about funding which is rarely questioned or researched.

          • Laguerre

            Hasn’t Craig just demonstrated that you’re not right? Pro-EU is, of course, not left-leaning.

          • Ba'al Zevul

            Interesting comment, Laguerre. Which highlights the vague definition of ‘left’ since Blair marched the Labour Party across the conservatives’ borders. Many on the true right regard the BBC as just as biased against them as many on the true left. That’s because it has a substantially Blairite position – and indeed gives the failed neocon unlimited air time despite his growing irrelevance. It accepts, unquestioningly, the economic orthodoxies of the Continuity Blairites, such as Osborne and Hammond. While professing to support the NHS, it is very reticent about the its crippling by PFI and a box-ticking management culture, both implicit in the orthodoxy, just as Blair was. It is vehemently and transparently pro-EU, just as Blair was and is.

            What Blair realised was that while it is very easy to attack extreme views, and indeed to mould the public perception of what is extreme…in any direction…to suit your purposes, mob mentality makes it almost impossible to criticise the (intentionally) amorphous centre, once you have succeeded in defining it for the mob. The centre is neither a consensus nor a compromise. It is precisely and only what successful political manipulators, backed and encouraged by vested interests, choose to make it. The vested interests would like to privatise the NHS, but gradually – to avoid upsetting the voters – and retaining the asset value of its former reputation – to ensure its profitability once privatised. The left correctly identifies this as a rightwing preference. The vested interests would like the UK to remain in Europe. Much of the right (broadly, the part which is ignorant of the difference between Blair and a socialist) sees this as a leftwing policy. But these are not contradictory standpoints, within the reference frame of global market economics, as inconsistent as they may appear to mortals in a logical universe.

    • Ba'al Zevul

      I agree entirely with your impression, at least as far as R4 is concerned, despite Janet Marks’s opinion, below. Missing its pro-EU bias may be the consequence of missing a lot of its morning and evening commentary, and even The Archers, though no-one could blame her for missing that.

      It is in fact almost unnecessary to buy or steal the Guardian any more: the BBC covers exactly the same news in exactly the same terms, although dissident commentary is rather better represented in the Graun. The BBC also echoes the Graun’s feminist agenda, increasingly irritatingly for those who prefer uninformed and dumbed-down op-ed material to at least be delivered without little giggles. Oh, and the Graun hasn’t yet found a way of adding background muzak and jokey FX to its notionally documentary pieces.

  • Janet Marks

    Now I understand why Farage has been allowed to appear so many times on programmes like Question Time – quite out of all proportion to his support in the country. There are people in high-up posts in the BBC who are just not up to the necessary balance and disinterest needed to report the news, accurately and without bias.

    • Ba'al Zevul

      I wonder if you would care to comment on the contract Melanie Phillips appears to enjoy with R4’s Moral Maze? At least Farage has a sense of humour.

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    Wish I could get excited about pay in the media, especially concerning women, down in my bunker, but we shall always be stuck with it, given men’s bias about their own worthiness. In my book, they are all massively overpaid for just repeating government dribble.

    If you really want to tackle the problem just stop having to pay for a license to watch it.

    I am much more concerned about the whole world getting blown up because of it. Reminded of a interview of Jill Stein on MSNBC where the overpaid, female interviewer was disputing the poor woman’s good sense about everything.

  • reel guid

    Alison Kirkham is the BBC Head of Factual Commissioning. She gets paid for £207 000 per annum for having commissioned things such as Back in Time for Dinner and DIY SOS. What’s her next project going to be called? How about ‘Money for Old Rope’?

    • Andy Carter

      Like that time when they aired illegal gas fitters being praised by presenters on ‘homes under the hammer?

  • Demetrius

    A little while back visiting the BBC we were lost in the maze of expensive offices. Eventually a kindly person led us to a poorer part of the place where a studio was. When Gary Lineker was young I think his local M.P. was Barnett Janner.

  • reel guid

    So many of these 98 BBC bureaucrats get annual salaries of more than £200 000.

    The Prime Minister of India gets £22 000 a year. And it’s the second most populated country in the world after China.

    The Prime Minister of Spain, one of Europe’s most populated, gets £59 000 per annum.

    Graham Ellis is the BBC’s Deputy Director of Radio. He gets £204 000 a year. And he’s only the deputy head of radio.

  • Sharp Ears

    Purnell (ex LFoI) and Harding (ex Times) feature in this report.

    Apologists for Israel take top posts at BBC
    Amena Saleem The Electronic Intifada London 23 April 2013

    Armed Israeli soldiers arrest unarmed Palestinian man
    Israel’s occupation is airbrushed from the BBC’s coverage.
    (Issam Rimawi / APA images)

    The American poet T.S. Eliot wrote that “April is the cruellest month.” The phrase springs to mind in April 2013, the month that a new director-general took up his post at the BBC and, within two weeks, had installed a line-up of hardline Zionists at the top of the world’s largest publicly-funded news organization.

  • Node

    Craig : He had picked up his plumb job in the BBC …

    Has Craig used the wrong spelling of “plum” or is he subtly alluding to the depths which BBC top brass habituate?

  • Tony

    “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 usually about the only thing that gets Harriet Harman angry.

  • Republicofscotland

    The state propaganda machine is a organisation unto itself. It uses extortion to extract money from the public, in turn the public are bombarded with whatever agenda it has on the cards, anti-Venezuelan or anti-SNP, etc.

    There’s no escaping it in Britain, the judiciary are complict in enforcing its extortion racket. It has umpteen tv and radio stations pumping out propaganda 24/7. The supposedly arbitrary BBC Trust, is in essence nothing more than a spouter of flack, with regards to complaints.

    In a independent Scotland, the BBC should be classed as pay on demand viewing, like Sky, if you want to watch it you will need to pay for it, as you do now, we should not be forced to pay for something we do not want.

    Now we know where much of our tv licence fees are going, and without our consent. One has to wonder where the rest of the money goes. In 2015/16 the BBC raked in £3.74 billion in licence money.

    • Ishmael

      “There’s no escaping it in Britain”

      TBF that’s not true, or JC would be nowhere. You act like we all live in some compulsory Orwellian state, either to stupid or oppressed to seek the myriad of other ways to get info. The BBC are surly guilty of all kinds of manipulation & an issue but (I’m getting daja vu here ROS)

      I spoke to some army group/guy in the town centre today. He tried to give me a leaflet, I stated on about Yemen, etc. He didn’t seem shocked at all. Nice guy actually.

      TBF I think the issue of TV, well it’s not a healthy lifestyle. & if you care about money so much most of it goes to bosses, capitalists, landlords… banks.

      • Republicofscotland

        “TBF that’s not true, or JC would be nowhere.”

        ” You act like we all live in some compulsory Orwellian state”

        Re your first sentence Ishmael, JCs, meteoric rise in the polls, is due to in most part the BBC’s portrayal of him. The complete oppositie of what you think, has occured.

        As for your second point, well Tony Blair’s part in Iraq, the High court stating no case to answer. The unelected undemocratic House of Lords, RIPA, John Smith, Robin Cook Dr David Kelly to name but a few.

        Kettling by the police, police officers now look like military personnel with all the armoured gear etc.

        The more than likely removal of ECHR laws replaced by the unknown British Bill of Rights, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

        • Ishmael

          “In most part”..I don’t agree.

          To the other part you selected to answer (not imo the meat, that was at the end) Yes, we know about all this. It does not negate the point I made. …

          And btw the solder/guard I mentioned, he respected the point I made about Yemen and not using the military for defence, Just in case, I meant he was not shocked me bringing up these subjects, or hostile, on the contrary. This does not point to a thought control state that’s working well….

          And there are major concerns, JC himselfs support of previous actions. But these are not the main points you made in your original post, And the ones you did ? RE remains omitted in a rather Orwellian way.

      • reel guid

        Orwell was a BBC radio producer for a time. Must have been where he got a lot of the ideas for 1984.

    • reel guid


      The money goes on things like the BBC sending more staff to the Olympics than there are GB athletes taking part. Hundreds of executives whose responsibilities clearly overlap, but none of them rock the boat about it since they all have great salaries. Then there’s the likes of Chris Evans and his vastly lucrative BBC contract because he’s a genius apparently.

      • Republicofscotland

        reel guid.

        The BBC is the largest propaganda machine in the world, broadcasting in at least 28 languages around the world. It has a 24/7 broadcasting capacity carried out by BBC Global news Ltd.

        BBC Worldwide Ltd. is the wholly owned commercial subsidiary of the BBC, and its main task is to sell BBC programmes around the globe, the profits are allegedly put back in to programme development. It has many tentacles across the world, and in my opinion, like some NGO’s in foreign lands, the BBC carries out a lot more than just reporting.

        The BBC, also owns a string of assets and brands, some when clicked on lead you to a plethora of subsidiary companies.

        • reel guid

          All that commercial activity and they still only spend a fraction of the Scottish viewers licence fee revenue on programmes for Scotland. All those Tory unionists at the BBC doing the work of trying to give Scots a confused sense of ourselves.

          • Republicofscotland

            reel guid.

            It would not be prudent of the BBC, to allow Scotland to produce historical programmes on its people. It could remove the cringeworthy factor, and cause Scots who were once unware of their history, to think again.

            If I recall Catalonia has quite a few channels devoted to the region.

  • Anne Fraser

    Where would you put Stephen Nolan? I’d have guessed he was to the left of Tony Blair and he’s pretty well paid…?

    • Anne O'Nimmus

      You must be joking! Nolan isn’t remotely left – he only *seems* to be on the occasions when he plays the embodiment of ‘mr compassionate’! He hates, absolutely hates with a passion the fact that he has to pay significant amounts of tax on his vast sums of money!

    • Ba'al Zevul

      The BBC coyly puts his salary at “between £400,000 and £499,999” a year. So not half a mil, then. He’s been quoted as saying that he was always interested in making as much money as he could. On a scale of leftwardness of 0-10, with Karl Marx being 10, and Blair 0, then, 0.0001. Though he’d probably have done better if he’d had more opportunities.

  • Ishmael

    I think a lot of people (including yourself) do an ok job of unpacking stuff.

    What iv found missing was more of a historical education. And I think a lot suffer from the lack of understanding of the society we live in, i.e., who teaches where we got the NHS from? etc etc etc.

    I could care less about the babble on tv or most any coroprate outlet. As long as I can fit it in ( 😉 Not for art btw) a historical context/framework I can judge for myself. And I trust most people are similar.

    Not teaching about the system we live in has to be one of the greatest crimes. Injustices. Down right cruel things one can attempt to do to a mass of people. To remove their history. Teach them about the market, but not Communism.

    *sigh* it makes me tired, thinking about all the crimes against humanity some seem to gleefully continue. Money money money. Doesn’t it make some even a little sick?

  • J Galt

    I used to read with horror about the Cheka/NKVD standard operating procedure of lopping off the top 10% or so in anywhere they had control – now maybe I think they had the right idea!

  • Phil

    I think that what all (decent minded) people want is impartiality.

    No matter what your political views, I think that all mainstream media should be completely separate from politics. Surely it is the job of any good journalist to be questioning the government and holding them to account? How can this be done in a revolving door system?

  • Sharp Ears

    There is no mention of Gavin Esler in the list of leavers on

    Nor of Caroline Thomson who banned the showing of the DEC appeal for Gaza.
    She has now found a niche as chair of OXFAM and was previously at English National Ballet!
    ‘She became the Corporation’s Director of Policy and Legal Affairs in July 2000, a job description later expanded to include Strategy, before being promoted to chief operating officer in 2006. In 2011 she was paid £385,000 by the organisation.[8] The Commons Public Accounts Committee suggested that her £670,000 redundancy pay-off was effectively paid to “compensate” her for missing out on the job of director-general.’
    She is married to Rod Liddle, a BLiar advisor.

    Nor of Mark Thompson, the DG, who presided over the Savile cover up. Now CEO at the NY Times Company.

    What a shower of parasites.

      • Sharp Ears

        Well spotted. Apolpgies to Rod.

        ‘Roger John Liddle, Baron Liddle (born 14 June 1947) is a British political adviser and consultant who is principally known for being Special Adviser on European matters to the former Prime Minister Tony Blair, and President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso. He also worked together with Peter Mandelson on books outlining the political philosophy of the Labour Party under Blair’s leadership. He is chairperson of the international think tank Policy Network and Pro-Chancellor of the University of Lancaster.’,_Baron_Liddle

        ‘“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”’

  • Velofello

    Well if you are a privileged, not so talented Establishment person, and seeming to be Labour inclined keeps you in a well-paid job, well why not I s’pose. And if a corporation can fool the population in the same manner, well why not I s’pose. And if you lead the Labour party, by stating objectives and policies you have no intention of delivering keeps you in a job, well why not I s’pose.

    I’m not a BBC customer, not paying to be lied to,my choice. I do scan the TV schedules, nothing of interest for me. Period dramas, a means to assure the public that England is/was great – off the backs of the ancestors of the masses who currently pay the BBC license, to be lied to.

  • K Crosby

    COMbbc is a subscription business with state coercion of those who have a telly to pay up, it’s also a poll tax so yet another subsidy for rich bastards. Make the subscription voluntary for those with as well as those without a telly.

  • Xavi

    Great piece. All you need to do to silence those who still maintain that the beeb’s news, political and economics reporting is balanced is to ask them to name even ONE influential, well-known leftwinger, either on air or off. Or you could ask them to point you towards any independent study of BBC news that shows anything other than systemic rightwing bias in reporting and the framing of stories.

  • giyane

    Speaking as an hourly-paid subbie, I always wonder about these things people have called jobs. I imagine if you had one, especially a good one, you wouldn’t feel inclined to rock the boat too much. I have been working for five months in a building with a basement full of rats, including electric cable chewing ones. I have once seen , in a different time and place, a lighting cable arcing above a kitchen ceiling like a sparkler. The MCB held for about 20 minutes, which I reckon might be enough to set fire to 500 students in this one .

    Rather than be delighted at my readiness to express my professional opinions, as opposed to saying ‘yes. Ma’am ‘ to company management, they picked on me for playfully saying that I liked the Chinese students, which I do because they are very hard-working and polite. all I can say is that in an establishment where there is too much gravy and too little incentive to whistleblow, you inevitably end up with a right-wing meme and silence about paedophiles like Savile. The BBC one of the more extreme examples because it is in front of our very noses.

    I think we should all be extremely displeased by the enourmousness of BBC salaries because of the inevitability of corruption and bias. It would be much better if they had tiny salaries and no continuity of employment. One of the talents of BBC staff should be their ability to gnaw at the structure of the status quo and drive change on behalf of the people. The money saved could be used on maintaining the health and safety of democracy and reining in war-mongers in government. That’s what we thought before Blair’s Iraq War the BBC used to do.

  • Laguerre

    I’m still in favour of a state-run broadcasting system. However bad the BBC is, it is still better than what would replace it. Just imagine Murdoch being given the chance to run the majority of channels, with Murdoch clones possessing the rest. I’ve experienced such broadcasting. It was in Colorado, where all the radio stations were either right-wing nutters, or fundamentalist Christians. I had to wait until I returned to discover what was happening in the world. That’s what they’d like to happen to you too, if they could.

    • Ishmael

      I rather the peoples broadcasting system. That’s developing.

      Hope you understand to someone who feels (the state) should not exist, etc. Its just not legitimate, they have already proved themselves.

      I don’t care abut nice people, or good intensions (that I’m sure many have already) The idea of these body as as separate from the people, “representing” them. That’s just not what ends up happening.

    • K Crosby

      It’s already been replaced, all that’s left of TradBBC is the corpse, minus its blubber. You won’t find out what’s happening in the world by listening to COMbbc. You ought to stay in more, you’d have a better idea that your views are (sadly) hope and nostalgia, rather than realism.

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