Join our radical campaign for the BBC: opening up its hiring process


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9:10 am - November 19th 2012

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by Oliver Huitson

Near half a million pounds in remuneration for 54 days work is not what most would consider a successful appointment process. Yet despite the failures of the BBC’s standard, closed door approach – they appear to be doing the very same thing right now in finding Entwhistle’s replacement for Director General.

In the wake of multiple recent crises there is a strong argument for the BBC to allow a little more light into the process and bring itself closer to the public – the people who both fund the corporation and for whom its output is intended.

Last week Anthony Barnett, founder of openDemocracy, and theOurBeeb project began a petition with a simple and clear request: candidates should publish brief statements outlining their vision for the Corporation.

What is not being proposed is any form of public voting or direct public control, the appointment of the DG would remain a matter for the BBC. But what it would do is to encourage the BBC at senior levels to consider and acknowledge the public it is supposed to be serving.

A more open and responsive BBC that retains its core mission to ‘inform, educate and entertain’ – and in a non-commercial context – must be the goal moving forward. Funding models, broadcast formats, technological advancements and public appetites are all pushing towards a less centralised and more user-driven service.

Whilst commercial media revenues are being squeezed the BBC as an institution will come under increasing pressure – even post-Murdoch, it will need the public on its side. A more open appointment process for the DG would be a good step in forging a new and closer relationship between the Beeb and the people.

Signers to the petition already include Richard Eyre, Philip Pullman, Brian Eno, Peter Oborne and the numbers are rising fast:

The petition:

The new Director General of the BBC will be heading Britain’s most important cultural institution and current affairs broadcaster. He or she should not be appointed by the traditional, established closed-door process, which has just failed.

We therefore call on the BBC Trust not to compound this by a further purely secretive appointment. We call on any candidates to publish a short outline of their vision of how the BBC should be taken forward and the principles that lie behind it.

And we call on the Trustees who will make the appointment to request and publish such statements from those they consider or short-list. In this way the BBC will move towards the transparency and openness it needs to retain public trust.

Among those signed:
Anthony Barnett, Oliver Huitson, Niki Seth Smith, Gemma Tortella-Procter: Lisa Appignanesi, James Curran, David Edgar, David Elstein, Richard Eyre, Brian Eno, Dan Hancox, Gerry Hassan, Lis Howell, Quentin Letts, Peter Oborne, Henry Porter, Philip Pullman, Clare Sambrook, Kamila Shamsie, Juliet Stevenson, Francis Wheen, Andreas Whittam Smith

If you want to support a more open BBC, you can sign the petition here.


Oliver Huitson is Co-Editor at OurKingdom and a freelance journalist. He contributed the chapter ‘The privatisation of governance’ to Jenny Manson’s 2012 book, Public Service on the Brink.

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Reader comments


How about a cash payout for damages for something you didn’t even broadcast?

“We call on any candidates to publish a short outline of their vision of how the BBC should be taken forward and the principles that lie behind it.”

That doesn’t cover the actual interview/appointment process, for which you need something more like a public confirmation hearing. Shown live. On something like BBC Parliament. And available for seven days afterwards via iPlayer.

PS: Given the signatories quoted I’m not sure whether it’s an impressive range of the great and good, or that some of them (e.g Elstein and Letts don’t really have the BBC’s interests at heart).

Can we change the opening up of the hiring process to include all employees of the BBC. Can it be a bit more open about the political leanings of it’s staff, especially after one news editor publicly called one of the political parties “vermin of the lowest order”.

“Near half a million pounds in remuneration for 54 days work is not what most would consider a successful appointment process.”

Speak for yourself. Entwistle deserves every penny and should still be DG.

5. domestic extremist

I’d be more interested in opening up the process by which the BBC decides what is the day’s most important news, who is allowed to comment on it, and (related issue) how to keep its government paymasters happy.


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  1. Jason Brickley

    Join our radical campaign for the BBC: opening up its hiring process http://t.co/5Jtl3SeU

  2. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – Join our radical campaign for the BBC: opening up its hiring process http://t.co/GDmexJqS





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