07 September 2017
East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell today led a debate at Westminster on the lack of transparency within the BBC.
DUP Spokesman on International Development and Cabinet Office
Focusing on experiences with BBC Northern Ireland he said his perception of the BBC has been tarnished.
“Correspondence from MPs goes unanswered. Questions about the use of public money are ignored or else have a veil of secrecy pulled over them. I have concluded that the BBC fat cats in Belfast are either incredibly arrogant or incredibly shifty.”
During the debate he focused on a number of issues:
On pay transparency: “It took a decade for the BBC to be dragged to the point where they published all salaries over £150,000 per year.
Since then the BBC has indicated that more staff will be moved off the direct payroll thus they will not feature in any published list next year even though they are paid in excess of the £150,000 threshold. So much for greater transparency!
I do not agree with BBC staff avoiding tax by channeling money through obscure Personal Service Companies. This House should consider the ethics of this practice where public money is concerned.”
On transparency in relation to complaints: “A constituent made a very simple request under FoI to request the number of complaints against matters carried across a number of BBC Northern Ireland outlets.
The information is held by the BBC but they refused to release it because it “is held for the purposes of journalism, art or literature.” Why would a publicly funded media organisation not be prepared to make public the number of complaints made against its programmes by the public?”
On the commissioning of programmes “The BBC commissions independent companies to produce programmes. Yet independent production companies, editing companies, editing companies and camera/lighting specialists are concerned that they are not getting a fair deal.
With stories of slow payments, reduced payments and a culture of fear fresh in my mind I started to probe the commissioning process. We need full transparency in BBC commissioning and we need evidence that all BBC Northern Ireland commission contracts are externally audited.”
On BBC accuracy and honesty “One inaccuracy was repeated until I appeared on a programme and confronted the deliberate misrepresentation. Only after this, coupled with official letters of protest from my Party to the BBC hierarchy was this reprehensible behaviour changed.
A significant complaint about these inaccuracies and many others relating to that period was due for reply many months ago. The BBC has repeatedly responded to say its process is ongoing.
The BBC is very slow at saying sorry.
On declarations of interest “In Parliament, MPs, Ministers and Civil Servants are aware of the need to declare any interests. Likewise the BBC in Northern Ireland has a process for declaring interests.
However the BBC refuse to publish these because they are “held for the purposes of journalism, art or literature”.
What is the point of a declaration of interest if it isn’t published?”
Concluding his contribution Mr Campbell said, “The BBC needs to radically alter the way its carries out its business, using public money. The case for change was never more apparent than it is now.”