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Author Topic:  BBC TV boss urged to quit over lobbying letter signed by his stars  (Read 3139 times)

Rita

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Seen in a national newspaper today:

"BBC TV boss Danny Cohen was facing calls last night for his resignation after claims he broke rules over a letter which backed a campaign to save the corporation from cuts.
Two of those who signed the protest letter to David Cameron - comedian and travel presenter Michael Palin and Radio 1 broadcaster Annie Nightingale - have revealed that Mr. Cohen was involved in organising it.
The letter was published the day before the Government brought out a Green paper on the future of the BBC.
Mr. Cohen is accused of breaching the corporation's lobbying guidelines.
Twenty-nine of the BBC's top stars signed it, including Sir David Attenborough, Dame Judi Dench, Gary Lineker, Stephen Fry, Chris Evans and Clare Balding.
Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, who both signed, were guests at Mr. Cohen's wedding, and he is on the board of trustees of a children's charity run by JK Rowling, who also signed the letter.
Insiders at Westminster say the affair has "raised eyebrows" at the Department for Culture Media and Sport, which is about to embark on negotiations on renewing the BBC's charter.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgend, who has been leading a campaign to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee, said: "Danny Cohen should consider his position.  Unless he resigns I shall be writing to Jesse Norman, chairman of the Culture Media and Sports Committee, on Monday, asking him to call Mr. Cohen before the committee to answer questions about his role in the shabby affair and to find out why he pursued a course of action that is in breach of the BBC's own lobbying guidelines.
"By rights, the BBC Trust should already be investigating".
The BBC last night denied any wrongdoing.  A spokeswoman said: "The signatories are people who clearly want to speak up for the BBC.  The letter is from the signatories.  It speaks for itself.  They  have their own strong views".
The BBC Trust, which looks after the interests of licence fee payers, also brushed the issue aside.  Asked if the Trust would investigate the letter, a spokeswoman said "The genesis of this letter is not a matter for the BBC Trust".
Mr. Cohen, director of BBC programmes, fell out recently with director general Tony Hall over the Jeremy Clarkson affair, which led to the Top Gear presenter's exit.
In his newspaper column, Clarkson said he still believed the BBC was a "great organisation" but added "It would be even better if it was run properly and right now, thanks to one or two people at the top, it isn't".
Mr. Cohen has also angered  many independent producers by the controversial decision to move BBC3 to online only.  It emerged yesterday that the BBC has trialled a blackout of its programmes, described by presenter Graham Norton as a "deprivation test".
In the trial, a group had their BBC service cut off for a fortnight.  By the end, said Norton, everyone - including those critical of the licence fee - said they would be happy to pay it".

Rita

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Following on from this, the Opinion column in the national paper read:

BBC's real priorities

"The BBC has much to recommend it and is considered by many to be a national treasure.  However it is far from perfect and needs to be able to recognise its flaws, rather than lashing out at those who seek to highlight them.
Clearly the celebrities who signed the protest letter to David Cameron last week believed in what they were saying.  Britain has a long tradition of free speech and they are entitled to their own view.
However it was the manner in which the letter was orchestrated that has "raised eyebrows" within the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.  Not least because it appears to breach its own lobbying guidelines.
With a turbulent few months ahead for the Beeb, which has been told it will face hard questions about its size and ambition from the Government during the Charter renewal negotiations, it should perhaps think twice about any further attempt to twist or manipulate the national debate over its own future".

And in another column:

"One rule I've followed for much of my life which, by the way, has never seen me wrong, is pretty straightforward: if people such as Stephen Fry, Melvyn Bragg and Lenny Henry are against something, I'm automatically in support of it.  Allowing for this to inform my stance in the row over the future of the BBC means this idea that "a diminished BBC will mean a diminished Britain" is as thin as many of their shows".

mel

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Hi Rita,
The more I hear what this government intends to do with the BBC the more I get nervous about our liberty and freedom.
The government are trying to fragment the BBC and force them into what the government wants them to be.
Also Mr Cameron and his friends are very close to a certain "Media Mogul" who dislikes the BBC, but would love to get his hands on it.
Its a great shame that something we all hold so dear could be torn apart by a government that just doesn't care about the people they govern.
I hope no one will be forced to quit just because he believes in his principles, we must treasure those people.   

If you remember just before the election Mr Cameron said privately "he wants to close down the BBC" > This Is The Article <

 

darcysarto

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Tory MP Andrew Bridgend, who has been leading a campaign to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee, said: "Danny Cohen should consider his position.  Unless he resigns I shall be writing to Jesse Norman, chairman of the Culture Media and Sports Committee, on Monday, asking him to call Mr. Cohen before the committee to answer questions about his role in the shabby affair and to find out why he pursued a course of action that is in breach of the BBC's own lobbying guidelines.

Whilst I have no sympathies with this government I'd happily see Danny Cohen answer questions in front of the DCMS.  Having seen him lamentably attempt to spin the covert licence fee agreement into a 'good deal' on Newsnight whilst plotting some 'celebs' to do his dirty work for him, I like to see him held accountable for such disingenuous behaviour.  Little doubt he has been one of the BBC's problems in recent years.


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