John Simpson: BBC under threat from politicians and Rupert Murdoch

By Gouri Sharma

John Simpson is in no doubt over the very real political and regulatory threats the BBC is facing and doesn’t trust either of the main UK political parties to protect the organisation.

The BBC world affairs editor, who was at the Frontline Club on Wednesday night to talk about his latest book, Unreliable Sources: How the Twentieth Century Was Reported, also expressed concern over the anti-BBC posturing from Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, which looks set to gain the most if the BBC loses the licensing fee.

If you missed the event, watch the whole thing here…

Simpson told members and guests at the club:

There is a far greater intensity of people out to get us (BBC), which is something that I have never seen before during my time at the BBC…There’s also a disapproval of BBC programming that I have never seen during my time at the BBC.

Simpson said that in a previous era these "criticisms would be difficult (to deal with) and we would have been able to shrug them off," but warned that "something has happened in politics" since then when it comes to the Beeb.

The veteran reporter said that if political parties messed with the license fee, they would be messing with the BBC’s "heart and soul"; if the licence fee was "top-sliced", there would be a knock-on effect on the quality of BBC content. The corporation would have to decide whether to broadcast to the nation or go to where its supporters are.

Simpson also criticised rival broadcasters, particularly Sky News, which is majority owned by Murdoch’s Sky News:

I don’t like the fact that Sky News execs are arguing very strongly for lifting the legal requirement for broadcasters to be balanced. We have seen the savage effects of Fox News on political argument and political debate in America and they have poisoned the debate…Who can be certain the same wouldn’t happen here?