The elite needs shaking up, and new BBC Director General Tony Hall is in a perfect position to act

For too long the BBC has been a bubble. Will it produce flagship shows relevant to the vast majority of people in Britain - or dwindle into cultural irrelevance?

Share
Related Topics

Compare and contrast Question Time and Newsnight. They're both flagship programmes on the BBC, and both routinely attract large audiences. They both tend to centre on politics as the core discussion topic. But beyond that, they're vastly different. Question Time faces a public audience; Newsnight doesn't. Newsnight interrogates politicians via the presenter; Question Time allows the public to do it with a moderator to keep decorum.

Question Time's panel is usually composed of five people from quite different backgrounds – some from politics, but there's usually a couple of people from way outside the Westminster beltway; businesspeople and other people famous for their achievements. Newsnight leans toward politicians, political advisors and think-tankers from the London establishment.

I recall a Newsnight show from a couple of months ago now, which was debating the place of young black males in society. The discussion was led by white middle-class male Gavin Esler, who was joined by three other white middle-class males and a white middle-class woman. How the BBC think this is representative journalism I'm not sure.

Six out of seven Newsnight presenters are privately educated, in a country where fewer than 1 in 10 are. Professions like journalism, the law, and finance used to provide great ladders for social mobility but they are now the reserve of the privileged few. As a public organisation the BBC has an opportunity to lead and demonstrate how those professions can provide ladders for mobility once again.

The BBC is in undeniably in crisis. Tony Hall has been appointed the new Director General – but his is an unenviable position at this time of deep soul-searching in one of the nation's (indeed the world's) most important media institutions. But 'Auntie' - as the BBC is affectionately known - will have to change a lot more than than the man at the top if it's to forge itself anew and shake off the malaise and scrutiny it finds itself under. It needs to dig deep and break free from the unrepresentative and elite London bubble that runs it.

Newsnight is the first place this new focus should be applied to. It has become the echo chamber of the political class; an out-of-touch daily dose of 'people like us' talking about themselves and things of importance to them. The programme has been mired in controversy because of the abysmal handling of the Jimmy Savile and Lord McAlpine stories. It's time it changed and this crisis is an opportunity that shouldn't be wasted. At a time of deep apathy and division in Britain, we need a flagship news analysis programme that brings people together around issues of national importance. I've been campaigning in various by-elections recently, and it's striking how apathetic normal people are, not just to the political world but increasingly the London-centric media world.

A taxi driver in Newport told me last week that he used to watch Question Time every week and Newsnight most nights. Now he's just down to the odd Question Time four or five times a year, and feels that the people on the screen no longer speak either for or to people like him. Britain is increasingly being run by an out-of-touch London elite, with no grounding in what motivates a group of people far more important than them: the British public who elect them and pay their salaries.

Change is needed - the elite needs shaking up. The BBC leadership, with Tony Hall at its forefront, would be wise to remember who pays its salaries and find a way to make its flagship programmes relevant once more to the people who make this country what it is. If they think Eastenders and Snog Marry Avoid? are all that the wider population demands or deserves, they should think again.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits  

So who, really, is David Cameron, our re-elected ‘one nation’ Prime Minister?

Andrew Grice
Time travel: Thomas Cook has been trading since 1841  

A horror show from Thomas Cook that tells you all you need to know about ethical consumerism

Janet Street-Porter
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?