Impartiality of BBC questioned after former Labour MP appointed to key role


  By G.A.Ponsonby
Concerns have been raised over the impartiality of the BBC after it was announced that a former Labour MP is to become the corporation’s Head of Strategy and Digital.
Questions have been raised by a Conservative MP after it emerged that former Cabinet Minister James Purnell is to be installed in a key role that will see him earn £295,000.

Mr Purnell, who served as Culture Secretary and Pensions Secretary in the last Labour government, stepped down as a Labour MP at the last general election.  The new role will see him re-join the BBC having worked there in the 1990s.

Rob Wilson, Conservative MP for Reading East, has said public confidence in the impartiality of the BBC could be compromised by the appointment of the former Labour MP.

He said: “Many people have long had suspicions about a metropolitan, leftist bias to the BBC’s output, particularly in news.  The appointment of a former Labour Cabinet Minister to a plum leadership role will hardly inspire confidence.”

The BBC responded to Mr Wilson’s concerns by insisting that political impartiality would be observed.

“The BBC has strong guidelines to avoid any potential conflicts of interest that may be caused by political activity.” said a spokesman.

News of Mr Purnell’s appointment followed official confirmation last week that the BBC did not believe it was obliged to provide balance in its coverage of the independence referendum debate.

As reported by Newsnet Scotland earlier this week, the corporation claimed that the official campaign had not yet begun and, as a result, they did not have to provide balance.

A licence payer who had complained about a BBC Scotland radio debate that saw pro-Union panellists outnumber the sole pro-independence guest, was told “…we are not in an official referendum campaign and therefore do not have to balance it out between yes and no.”

The official email had been sent on behalf of BBC Head of News Helen Boaden.

The news of Mr Purnell’s appointment came on the same day that it was announced that Ms Boaden was being moved to radio.  She was recently criticised over the BBC’s handling of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

MEANWHILE, organisers of a public rally to be held on Saturday February 23rd in Glasgow have announced that their website is now active. 

The campaigners have asked Newsnet Scotland to inform those interested that details about the rally – which goes under the slogan ‘Illuminate The Debate’, can be found by going to

According to a spokesman, the rally is not aimed at promoting any side in the independence debate but has been called in order to draw attention to what they claim is a lack of balance and quality provided by broadcasters.

Explaining the name behind the campaign, the spokesman said: “We chose BARD2014 because we wanted to convey something that all Scots would understand.

“BARD stands for Balanced – All inclusive – Referendum – Debate, and the word also ties in with our own bard, the great Robert Burns who was not afraid to speak out.

“This campaign is about speaking out.  We want our broadcasters to present a balanced and honest debate and to open this debate up to those who are currently under-represented.”

The spokesman confirmed that a twitter account had been set up and asked that people look out for and re-tweet from the twitter account.

He urged anyone concerned about the standard of debate currently being provided by broadcasters to get to Glasgow and join the rally.

“We need to come together to ensure our people are informed as best they can be before they enter the voting booth in 2014.

“Balance is in everyone’s interests.” he added.