Dominic Cummings’ think tank called for ‘end of BBC in current form’ and creation of Fox News equivalent in UK

New Frontiers Foundation blog described public broadcaster as ‘mortal enemy’, internet archive reveals

Peter Stubley
Wednesday 22 January 2020 13:18 GMT
Dominic Cummings walks into Downing Street wearing baggy jeans

Dominic Cummings ran a think tank that called for the end of the BBC “in its current form” and the creation of a UK version of Fox News.

The prime minister’s most senior adviser directed the New Frontiers Foundation when it branded the public broadcaster a “mortal enemy” of the Conservative Party.

In a series of blogs in 2004, the think tank repeatedly attacked the BBC and highlighted the importance of targeting its political coverage during any future EU referendum.

“There are three structural things that the right needs to happen in terms of communications,” the unidentified author wrote in a 17 September 2004 post preserved on the Wayback Machine internet archive.

“1) the undermining of the BBC’s credibility; 2) the creation of a Fox News equivalent / talk radio shows / bloggers etc to shift the centre of gravity; 3) the end of the ban on TV political advertising...

“One low-cost thing that right networks could do now is the development of the web networks scrutinising the BBC and providing information to commercial rivals with an interest in undermining the BBC’s credibility.

“During the election and even more so in an EU referendum, there will be a huge need for the BBC’s reporting of issues to be scrutinised and taken apart minute-to-minute.”

Four days later the think tank criticised a report on George W Bush and Iraq by the Today programme in a post titled “BBC bias continues”.

“This episode is the latest in a long line of such reports demonstrating an unquestionable political bias at the BBC and a particular problem with the Today programme,” it wrote.

The post added: “One thing that can be done between now and the election is fire missile after missile at the BBC every time it engages in this sort of reporting.

“The right ... can only prosper in the long-term by undermining the BBC’s reputation for impartiality ... and by changing the law on political advertising.

“The BBC is a determined propagandist with a coherent ideology. We are paying for it. We should not be. We should be changing the game.”

This echoed a previous post in July 2004 which argued that “the right should be aiming for the end of the BBC in its current form and the legalisation of TV political advertising”.

Then in January 2005, the think tank defended Michael Howard, then leader of the Conservatives in opposition, from criticism.

“There has been an intellectual and professional void in the Party since 1991 which no group of people could have solved in a year,” it wrote.

“Until the CP realises that (a) the BBC is a mortal enemy; (b) the CP’s current problems are the result of a long-term crisis in which its abdication of its historic role in being a national party or nothing is at the core of why it has failed and it cannot revive until it develops an intellectual and political programme for dealing with Europe and our relationship with it ... then it will continue on its current course.”

Downing Street said it would not comment on the contents of the blog.

Following the original Guardian report on the New Frontier Foundation and Dominic Cummings, the Liberal Democrats said they would “fight for the BBC tooth and nail”.

Acting leader Ed Davey said: “The BBC is a national treasure and if Dominic Cummings thinks he has got a mandate to go after Strictly and David Attenborough he has got another thing coming.

“Every politician and party will have their problems and frustrations with the BBC, but often that’s because the Beeb are doing their job.”

Ben Bradshaw, Labour’s former culture secretary, said the public “would not take kindly” to the BBC “being sacrificed to Rupert Murdoch”, the owner of Fox News.

He told The Guardian: “The BBC belongs to the British public, not the government, and the public value the public service ethos of the BBC, objective and accurate information and news and the broad range of much-loved radio and TV programmes.”

Meanwhile, Robert Peston, who left the BBC to became ITV’s political editor, reported that Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings “intend to have a significant influence over the appointment of a new director general” following the resignation of Tony Hall.

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