There is anxiety at the BBC, where the Cummings effect is thought to threaten the Today programme. If ministers are told not to appear on it, people ask how it can survive. Although a supporter of the Cummings frost towards the BBC, I feel it would be perverse if Today were the victim. It is well-edited, with a much wider range of subjects and attitudes than are displayed on PM, Woman’s Hour, Newsnight, virtually all comedy shows and arts programmes, and many more. Woke BBC persons regard it as scarcely better than the Daily Mail.
Today is in the eye of the storm because it is the BBC’s main political programme, not because it is the worst. The problem with the BBC goes wider and deeper. First, there is an astonishing lack of editorial leadership by the bosses. Second, filling that vacuum, is journalistic triumphalism. It was revealing during the election campaign that Nick Robinson complained of the Tories misinforming ‘some very high-profile journalists’. Obviously, they should not misinform anyone, but it is not a good thing that a public service broadcaster committed to impartiality should have ‘very high-profile journalists’. The most respected journalist on Today is the sports supremo Gary Richardson, because he knows a lot but no one knows what he thinks. If there were more Garys, perhaps government and BBC could sign an armistice.
It was my great pleasure, when guest-editing Today after Christmas, to get a hunting horn blown on air by the composer and huntsman-Master Andrew Sallis. I quickly had complaints, however, from friends in three different stables that morning. As they were tacking up, they told me, and Today was playing on their radios, the sound of ‘Gone away’ was too exciting for their horses and near-pandemonium ensued. Anyone wishing to sue for damage should please contact the BBC director-general, Lord Hall of Birkenhead.
This article is an extract Charles Moore’s Spectator Notes, available in this week’s magazine.