BBC boss on the ropes: Tim Davie insists corporation is doing a ‘pretty good job’ despite facing a storm over allegations of bias
- Tim Davie told MPs the BBC was ‘delivering well’ when it came to neutrality
- He claimed the corporation was doing a ‘pretty good job’ at tackling bias
- His upbeat assessment came after Joe Lycett mocked Liz Truss on air
- He said the BBC had not displayed bias ‘in the slightest’ by booking comedian
The BBC’s boss yesterday defended the broadcaster over a string of impartiality controversies – claiming it was doing a ‘pretty good job’ at tackling bias.
Director-general Tim Davie told MPs the corporation was ‘delivering well’ when it came to neutrality.
His upbeat assessment came despite a series of rows, including a comedian mocking Liz Truss on the BBC’s top politics show, Gary Lineker’s social media activity and a comedy show airing crass insults about Boris Johnson.
He said the BBC had not displayed bias ‘in the slightest’ by booking comedian Joe Lycett on Laura Kuenssberg’s first show in the prime Sunday morning slot.
The comic overshadowed Miss Truss’s appearance by sarcastically applauding before mocking her promises to help families with energy bills. Lycett’s behaviour sparked anger from Tory MPs and a call for an apology from the BBC.
But playing down the incident, Mr Davie said the audience ‘saw it for what it was’.
He said: ‘We can debate exactly… about whether it was the right booking, but what I will say is Laura conducted herself… in an exemplary fashion in a slightly difficult situation. We move on.’ He added: ‘I don’t think it displays BBC bias in the slightest. The audience saw it for what it was.’
Grilling: BBC boss Tim Davie faces MPs yesterday
The BBC’s boss yesterday defended the broadcaster over a string of impartiality controversies – claiming it was doing a ‘pretty good job’ at tackling bias
The BBC boss, who said there had been only 66 complaints about the row, described the incident as ‘bemusing’. But he did admit the comedy star ‘may not be the next booking we make’.
Asked about the impartiality of the BBC’s content as a whole, Mr Davie told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee: ‘We do have hundreds of thousands of hours of output… and overall, I think we are delivering well, I do think that and it’s important that we’re proportional about this.’
He was also forced to address the continued controversy over Lineker’s political tweets, saying the former England footballer’s approach to impartiality was a ‘work in progress’. But he claimed the 61-year-old Match Of The Day star’s social media behaviour had undergone a ‘massive improvement’.
Just last week the BBC faced a backlash over claims it ordered a senior journalist to apologise to Lineker after blasting the star’s tweets about sewage being pumped into the sea.
Tory MP Steve Brine said that while Lineker was a ‘brilliant pundit’, he did not care what the star thinks about ‘water quality’.
The BBC director-general stood by the star, saying ‘it is work in progress in terms of where he draws the line’.
He added: ‘I think overall, in terms of where he is, I think he is in a lot better state.’
His upbeat assessment came despite a series of rows, including a comedian mocking Liz Truss on the BBC’s top politics show, Gary Lineker’s (pictured) social media activity and a comedy show airing crass insults about Boris Johnson
He said the BBC had not displayed bias ‘in the slightest’ by booking comedian Joe Lycett on Laura Kuenssberg’s first show in the prime Sunday morning slot. Pictured left to right: Boris Johnson Cleo Watson, Joe Lycett and Labour frontbencher Emily Thornberry
Mr Davie said bans on any ‘issues-based tweeting’ was the ‘wrong position’. He also defended the lucrative salaries for top talent as an ‘effective way’ to spend its money, saying the BBC was showing ‘restraint’.
And the director-general rejected claims by former Newsnight host Emily Maitlis that the corporation had caved in too quickly after government complaints about her controversial Dominic Cummings monologue in 2020. Mr Davie yesterday described her as an ‘outstanding journalist’ but insisted that rules were breached.
BBC chairman Richard Sharp told MPs Miss Maitlis had been ‘completely wrong’ to suggest ‘due process wasn’t followed’.
The BBC invited an anti-Brexit comic on a current affairs show to mock Liz Truss over her 2014 speech about cheese imports.
Marcus Brigstocke appeared on Radio 4’s The World Tonight to reflect on her famously stilted speech about global food markets. During the broadcast, which aired on Monday, he suggested her stance on Brexit meant exporting cheese remained ‘very difficult’.
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