Nicholas Jones - Blog and Archive Website

 2 November, 2007

Having been a beneficiary of a roller-coaster ride of continuous expansion during my thirty-year career as a BBC industrial and political correspondent, I can only look on in horror from the sidelines as the Corporation prepares to implement a slash-and-burn retreat into an uncertain future.

Since leaving the BBC in 2002 I have argued consistently that what the management needs to do is define and defend what is best in the BBC’s public service broadcasting.

Even now, on the eve of negotiations with the joint unions over a another massive round of job losses, there has still been no audit to identify the news and current affairs programming which must be protected at all cost. I consider that a dereliction of duty on the part of the management and the new BBC Trust.

Speech to Thomson Foundation (Egyptian Journalists' visit) 19.6.2007

Tony Blair’s belated acknowledgement in his Reuters speech that the growing dominance of the internet and accelerating media convergence might require a new regulatory framework only serves to underline his government’s lamentable failure to protect public service broadcasting.

Through his unseemly courtship of media magnates such as Rupert Murdoch, which continued throughout his Premiership, Blair weakened the BBC and has bequeathed a media regime which could threaten one of the country’s greatest democratic safeguards.

News coverage of election campaigns is a classic British compromise: we have a free press and newspapers can be as unscrupulous as they like in promoting whichever party they choose. But coverage on television and radio cannot be politically partisan; there are clear rules requiring television and radio stations to ensure a balance in air time between the parties.

My abiding memory of the former BBC director general John Birt was the day in 1994 when I challenged him over his headlong rush to embrace every new innovation in broadcasting without thinking through the impact this would have on editorial and production values.

Thirteen years later -- with the Corporation facing a £2billion shortfall in the licence fee -- I would mount a similar charge against the management: they have failed to define and defend what is best in the BBC’s journalism.