A former Director General of the BBC and its Director of News have both raised concerns about standards they say the public broadcaster is not meeting.
Lord Birt, who ran the BBC from 1992 to 2000 told a conference at London City University that the organisation was failing to address the “awesomely difficult questions” of the current climate including the economy and the threat of radical Islam, the Telegraph reports.
And James Harding, who is in charge of the news output for the broadcaster which covers TV, radio and internet said that it better serves “rich, old, white people” than those from poorer background and ethnic minorities, according to the Daily Mail. He insisted the corporation must “redress the balance” and cater for all.
The BBC is funded by the compulsory license fee, which costs the same for everyone regardless of age or income. Those who don’t pay it risk prosecution, a court appearance and a fine of up to £1,000 (not including legal costs).
Lord Birt said there needed to be a different strategy in order to address “the big questions we face.”
“Every economy bar one in the G7 is more productive than the UK – these are the big issues that go undiscussed,” he said.
“If you take current affairs as a whole, it doesn’t have sufficient presence at the moment. I am not alone in thinking that.
“We get more knowledge of things happening around the world but pulling it all together and addressing the big policy questions – what should we be doing in respect of radical Islam, the National Health Service – that’s what we’re not doing very well and nobody’s doing very much.”
Speaking at the same event Mr Harding, heaped praise on Newsnight saying it “is getting back to what it should be: the most interesting news programme on British television. It’s got back its confidence, ambition, wit and real intelligence.”
He outlined plans for an expansion in the news operation in order to double its global audience to half a billion by 2022.
He said the BBC World Service is “Britain’s best loved and most respected export. We should build it up, not tear it down.”
As well as the World Service, the BBC has special language channels and BBC 1 and 2 are featured as regular channels on European TV packages. In addition, there is BBC America and a new expansion in Australia.
But while the exporting of the Beeb was deserving of praise, he warned that all news channels were letting down young, poor, non-white audiences.
Mr Harding based his claims on research by both the BBC itself and the regulator OfCom.
He said there was a “real issue of information inequality in this country. Rich, old, white people are getting a better diet of news than poorer, younger, non-white people.”
Back in 2001 the former Director General Greg Dyke spoke out against his own employers, saying it was “hideously white” and had worse race relations than some police forces.
His comments drew criticism from across the political spectrum as well as audiences who pointed to the diversity of actors, presenters and programme types put out by the corporation.
But Conservative MP Angie Bray who is a member of the Culture, Media and Sport select committee, said Mr Harding “needs to define his terms” and called his opinions “patronising.”
“What does he mean by better?” she said. “People get the news they are interested in and that’s why you get such a wide range of newspapers. It’s all different but I’m not going to put a value judgement on it.”
“It doesn’t say much for the BBC, with all its claims that it has by far the widest audience of all. It sounds a bit patronising but I don’t really see what his point is. People take their news from where they get the news they want in the way that they want it.”