Bashir’s Interview with Princess Diana Thrusts BBC Into a Storm

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Moreover, the government has installed a director-general, Mr. Davie, and a chairman, Richard Sharp, who have ties to the Conservative Party and are viewed as more attuned to the sensitivities of 10 Downing Street. Mr. Sharp, a former Goldman Sachs banker and Conservative donor, has made staff at the BBC feel safer, according to Ms. Enders.

“They’re going to make sure this never happens again,” she said of the BBC’s new leaders. “They’re going to make sure the Diana interview is wiped from the annals of history, that they can’t make money from it again.”

There are other reasons Mr. Johnson may feel less pressure to move against the BBC. His party recently won striking victories in local and regional elections across the Midlands and north of England. It did so largely without the help of pro-government papers owned by Rupert Murdoch and other publishers, who are hostile to the BBC and habitually lobby the government, after elections, to clip its wings.

Mr. Murdoch recently scaled back a politically opinionated news service that was going to compete with the BBC. While it still faces another rival, GB News, analysts question whether the new venture will have the money to compete, on a 24-hour basis, against an organization as entrenched as the BBC.

Even if the government is no longer as determined to cut the BBC’s finances, it has another incentive to keep up the pressure: to influence its news coverage. And in this, critics say, it has been quite successful.

While BBC programs like “Newsnight” and “Panorama,” which carried the Diana interview, continue to offer probing journalism, its general news coverage, some say, has become anodyne and does not challenge the government enough. While it has provided exhaustive coverage of the pandemic, for example, it rarely questioned the setbacks and reversals in Mr. Johnson’s early handling of the virus.

At times, the BBC seems to function mostly as a handy foil for the government in the culture wars that have flared across post-Brexit Britain.

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