Johnson insists BBC is ‘a great national institution’ amid government attacks
Boris Johnson said the BBC “will be around for a long time” after Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries wondered if it would still exist in a decade.
The prime minister said it was a “great national institution” at a time when relations between the broadcaster and the government were strained.
His comments came after a harrowing exchange on BBC Radio 4’s flagship Today, in which presenter Nick Robinson told the Prime Minister to “stop talking”.
The Prime Minister was asked about the future of the BBC in an interview with rival broadcaster GB News.
“The BBC has been around for a very long time, it is a great national institution, I have no doubt that it will exist for a long time,” Mr Johnson said.
The Prime Minister conducted a series of televised interviews on the eve of his Conservative Party conference speech.
Today Robinson made it clear that this was the Prime Minister’s first appearance on the program in two years.
During the interview, Mr Johnson was interrupted in a lengthy response by Robinson, who told him: ‘Prime Minister stop talking, we’re going to have questions and answers, not where you’re just talking, if you do not mind.”
At the end of the interview, the Prime Minister declared: “It is very kind of you to let me speak… I thought it was the point to invite me on your show.
Conservative President Oliver Dowden, a former Culture Secretary, said at an event on the sidelines of the conference: “It is right that politicians are scrutinized and held to account. I think sometimes politicians have the right to finish a sentence when answering a question.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said – with a smile on his face – that it was an “attractive idea” to offer leniency to people who have not paid the license fee, in order to ” lighten the burden on district courts.
In response to a question from Spectator Editor-in-Chief Fraser Nelson, he said: “It’s an attractive idea, I can see why in a fringe of the Conservative Party you would try to drag me into controversial ground. “
The latest developments came after Ms Dorries targeted the BBC’s ‘elitist’ approach and its ‘lack of impartiality’.
She admitted “I don’t know” if the broadcaster will survive even 10 years from now against competition from new players like Netflix.
The new Culture Secretary insisted she did not want a “war” with the broadcaster, but suggested he should explain how that will change before the next license fee settlement, which covers license fees. five years from April 2022.
Ms Dorries highlighted a range of issues she had with the broadcaster, including a lack of working class diversity and a perceived political bias.
“It’s about recognizing that access and the lack of impartiality are part of your problem,” she said.
She said there was “group thinking” within society that “excludes working class circles”.
“North West, North East, Yorkshire – if you have a regional accent at the BBC it doesn’t go particularly well,” she said.
“They talk a lot about diversity but they don’t talk about children from working-class backgrounds and that has to change.”
When asked how to fix it, she replied, “It’s not about quotas, it’s just about having a fairer approach and a less elitist and less snobbish approach to who works for you. .
The BBC’s annual report shows that more than 60% of staff have attended public schools, including 11.5% in a fee-paying school.
Some 8.4% went to “other” schools, 4.2% preferred not to say so and there was no data for 15.3% of staff.
Among the 80% of staff who specified their background, 48.3% have “professional” parents, 20.2% are from “working classes” or “lower socio-economic” groups and 8.8% come from ‘an “intermediary” family.