In a move that may have left a few people slightly confused, the Daily Mail has published an editorial in support of the BBC.
The Mail’s traditional antipathy to the BBC notwithstanding (“its monstrous bureaucracy, its unthinking profligacy with licence fees, its manifold editorial misjudgements or its all-pervading soft-Left bias”), the paper is critical of suggestions that the corporation’s oversight body, the BBC Trust, should have its functions transferred to communications regulator OfCom and the National Audit Office. The Trust has faced criticism as excessive remuneration and severance packages have led to accusations of waste and cronyism.
So why on Earth would the Daily Mail defend this?
For very obvious reasons actually. The Leveson report of 2012 suggested that, should a self-regulatory body established by the press fail to meet the criteria set out by the Lord Justice, OfCom could step in as a “backstop” regulator.
If as the Mail’s editorial suggests in regard to BBC budgeting, “It is simply not safe to entrust such power to a quango answerable to MPs, with their vanity, partisan agendas and propensity to bear grudges.”, then surely the self same proprietors of all that vanity, partisanship and grudgery should not be allowed even the slightest control over the free press.
So what’s the Mail’s solution for the BBC?
Surely it cannot be beyond the wit of man to devise a genuinely independent regulator, with the authority to ensure value for money and true impartiality.
We’re not necessarily just talking about the BBC here, are we?
Meanwhile last week David Cameron, resplendent in new reading glasses, told the Commons Liaison Committee he feared an “impasse” in progress on press regulation. While voicing support for a cross-party Royal Charter regulatory proposal rather than the alternative suggested by the majority of the newspapers, Cameron suggested that the leaders of the other main parties, as well as the press, may need to give some leeway in negotiations:
“To be clear I am committed to the cross-party charter. We all signed it, we agreed it. We should progress it but it would be good if we could find some way for everyone to see that it would be better if you ended up with a cross-party charter that the press seek recognition with. But it is a cross-party issue so this is something all party leaders have to address.”
Professor Brian Cathcart of Hacked Off, the group campaigning for the imposition of the Royal Charter, claimed in an article for Huffington Post that the idea of an “impasse” had been planted in the prime minister’s head by newspaper editors, declaring “There is no impasse; there is a process.”
But in which direction we are to proceed may still be up for grabs.