The BBC is not “the woke corporation”, the broadcaster’s outgoing director general has said while defending his former colleagues from the accusation they are all supporters of left-wing politics.
Tony Hall, who served as the BBC’s director general for more than seven years before stepping down to chair the board of trustees at the National Gallery, said it was the duty of the broadcaster to “be giving everybody, whoever they are, something” in a time of polarisation.
It comes as the broadcaster’s impartiality is questioned by figures on both the left and the right of the political spectrum, most recently over a decision not to have performers sing “Rule, Britannia!” at the Last Night of The Proms because of Covid-19.
And scrutiny has been particularly applied to the way the broadcaster approaches social issues, including a recent podcast exploring intersectional feminism which asked “How can white women not be Karens?”, a reference to a pejorative term used to reference those women who exert their privilege to the detriment of others.
However in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Lord Hall defended the broadcaster from claims it had become “irredeemably woke”.
“Number one, we’re not the woke corporation” he told the paper. “That’s not a description I recognise at all. The BBC is at the fulcrum of the big societal changes of a more polarised polity; of people disputing just about everything about the way we run our lives. And our job is not to take sides.
“We should not pander to any particular group; we should be giving everybody, whoever they are, something. We should try to be the calm centre in what is a very stormy situation that we find ourselves in.”
Referring to an assumption that everyone who staffs the broadcaster “is of the left”, he added “That’s not true, otherwise, the BBC wouldn’t have supplied so many communication directors to Downing Street.”
The decision to change the way the Proms is performed this year was forced by the coronavirus pandemic, the BBC has said. Next year, managers hope to resume normal service.
In a statement, the corporation said: “With much reduced musical forces and no live audience, the Proms will curate a concert that includes familiar, patriotic elements such as Jerusalem and the national anthem, and bring in new moments capturing the mood of this unique time, including ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, presenting a poignant and inclusive event for 2020.”
Proms conductor Dalia Stasevska has previously expressed her “heartbreak” after being blamed for the decision that “Rule, Britannia!” would be played but not sung at the 2020 edition of the concert.
A spokesperson for the Proms described attacks on Ms Stasevska as “unjustified and misguided”, saying: “The programme of Last Night of the Proms was the BBC’s decision. As such, Dalia Stasevska should not be held responsible.”
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