The taxpayer-funded British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) appears to have had intricate involvement in a letter sent to the Prime Minister, urging the organisation to be spared from government spending cuts. The news comes despite the BBC claim that it had no involvement in the letter.
The Times reports that in fact, the letter sent by a number of British celebrities to the Prime Minister was circulated and promoted by BBC executives – a point that has emerged since one of the signatories admitted she was approached by the controller of BBC Radio 1.
Twenty-nine celebrities are supposed to have signed the ‘grassroots’ letter, the authenticity of which has now been called into serious question – as well as the BBC’s role in indirectly lobbying government, and spending taxpayer time and resources doing so, simply to line its own coffers.
The Times reports:
The BBC’s press office initially denied it had “anything to do” with the open letter, which was delivered to the prime minister on Tuesday and signed by stars including Dame Judi Dench and Sir David Attenborough.
It warned that “a diminished BBC would simply mean a diminished Britain” and was endorsed by more than two dozen figures from the world of arts and entertainment, including some of the BBC’s highest-paid talent.
The letter was presented as an independent protest against plans to reform the BBC, but The Times can reveal that executives at the highest level helped to co-ordinate it while the corporation officially denied all knowledge.
Annie Nightingale, BBC Radio 1’s longest-serving presenter and one of the letter’s 29 signatories, said she had been invited to be a signatory by Ben Cooper, the controller of Radio 1. She had not seen the text of the letter before its publication.
She said: “I bumped into Ben a couple of days ago. He said Danny Cohen [the director of BBC television] was putting this letter together and said, ‘Would you like to be included?’ I said, ‘Yeah’. I understood vaguely what it would say. I didn’t read the letter before it went out.”
Michael Palin today said he too had been asked to take part.
The former Monty Python star said that Danny Cohen, the head of BBC Television, rang him to tell him about the letter and ask him to add his name.
“Danny Cohen rang me up, he just asked ‘Would you sign? The charter is coming up, we’re a bit worried the BBC would become smaller and less significant’,” Palin told the Victoria Derbyshire show on BBC 2 this morning.
The irony of wealthy celebrities – many of whom have made their fortunes off the BBC’s licence fee-funded dime – asking the general public to continue paying £150 a year for the pleasure of the BBC’s broadcasting, appears to have been lost on the BBC and the letter’s signatories.