'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Sunday, 17 June 2012

The BBC needs a visionary director general, not a political placeman.

My latest piece from the New Statesman...

"Our vision – to be the most creative organisation in the world".
That’s quite a bold and imaginative goal, I would venture. What sort of qualities would you look for in a potential leader of such an organisation?
May I suggest that such a leader would be a visionary. Like some modern day soothsayer, they would understand what we want before we know we want it – a Steve Jobs-type character. They would understand every aspect of how we experience creativity in a digital age, as Larry Page and Sergey Brin so clearly do. And they would deliver creativity for all from the cradle to the grave – perhaps a little like Bob Iger does at Disney.
Now if I was searching for some sort of human chimera that delivers all those qualities, I wouldn’t spend an inordinate amount of time searching for them in and around the Palace of Westminster.
Yet apparently there are a lot of folk who seem to think that’s exactly where the best head of the BBC – for it is the Beeb's official vision that kick-starts this piece - will be found.  And put in those terms, doesn’t that seem frankly ludicrous?
Stuck in the Westminster bubble, politicians on all sides expound the merits of appointing a new director general from one side of the political divide or the other, on the basis that unless a political appointee is made, the corporation will remain hopelessly biased in the opposite direction from that of whichever commentator happens to be writing at the time. I’ve even been told today that the less-than-diamond jubilee coverage is the result of political bias  - "only something run by a lefty could have covered Jubilee celebrations so badly". Oh, come on.
Of course, covering politics is an important cog in the workings of the BBC. And dealing with politicians, in terms of both the BBC Trust (current chairman anex-chairman of the Conservative Party) and the ultimate arbiter on the licence fee (currently one Jeremy Hunt, at least as I type) is a key aspect of the role.
But is that really what we want in a leader of the BBC – someone who’s good at chewing the fat with the men and women in grey suits? That’s not who’s going to deliver me, as a licence fee payer, the most creative organisation in the world.
As Caitlin Moran rather neatly put it on Twitter this morning: "the BBC should be run by some sexy rogue pirate who's really the fuck into public remit broadcasting".
You are unlikely to find one of those in SW1.

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