CAMPAIGNS: What The Media Say - Tory outcry over choice of BBC chair

Organisation: BBC

Issue: Appointment of Gavyn Davies as chairman

The appointment of Gavyn Davies, economist, millionaire and long-term

member of the Labour Party, as BBC chairman caused a furore from Tory

commentators and near 'apoplexy' from the Conservative press (The

Guardian, 20/9).

Ironically, few questioned Davies' qualifications for the role, as he

was widely reported to be 'the best man for the job', with a winning

combination of experience and intelligence.

Despite being the first BBC chairman to be chosen via public

advertisement and an independent selection panel, the appointment was

heralded the 'final takeover' in a strategy by which Tony Blair 'has

stuffed his cronies into every corner of public life' (David Davis, The

Guardian, 19/9).

The Government and Davies were quick to dispute allegations of 'Tony

cronyism' by highlighting that the new open recruitment process could

only reinforce the BBC's tradition of impartiality.

The defence of Davies' appointment was followed by a sharp

counter-offensive from broadcasting minister Kim Howells. 'The Tory

attack is both misinformed and hypocritical... The last two chairmen of

the BBC (both Tories) were appointed without competition and in complete

secrecy' (The Express, 20/9).

The outraged cries of 'cronyism' and corruption of the BBC impartiality

from Conservative circles, noted as the 'noise of stones being lobbed

around glass houses' by The Guardian, (17/9) took on a more personal

twist in Sunday Business: 'Davies is fundamentally a boring little man

with a beard' (23/9).

However, charisma was not an attribute required for the leader of the

BBC's strategic direction. Honesty, integrity and a commitment to uphold

neutrality were. Davies was reported to be in possession of the first

two qualities, and the BBC website unsurprisingly assured the public

that 'the impartiality of the BBC is not at risk in any sense' (

uk, 19/9).

There were reconciliatory moves by the Government later in the week, as

'No 10 asks Tories to suggest BBC names' for the position of

vice-chairman (The Times, 21/9).

However, the rules of the new independent recruitment process, may have

to be flexible to ensure a Tory candidate is found to be the best person

the job.

Analysis and commentary by Echo Research. More information can be found


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