BBC chair David Clementi has dismissed speculation about his possible successor during a hearing of the U.K. House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee convened to discuss the broadcaster’s annual report.
Committee chair Julian Knight posed the question of whether an individual should be barred from the job of BBC chair if he or she has been convicted of not paying the license free. Though Knight insisted that he had no particular person in mind, Charles Moore, a columnist for the conservative Daily Telegraph newspaper, who emerged over the past weekend as a possible candidate for the chair role, was fined by a magistrate’s court in 2010 for non-payment of the fee.
BBC director general Tim Davie said that he doesn’t run the appointment process for his boss and declined to answer the question. Knight pressed the point, saying that as the fee represented 70% of its revenue, “to have a chairman, whoever that may be, to be convicted of non-payment of a license fee seems to be completely beyond the pale.”
Clementi then stepped in and said, “This announcement that we are looking for a new chair is a matter for the government, and finally it is a matter for the Prime Minister.”
“The charter is absolutely clear. Article 22 of the charter says clearly, the appointment may only be made following a fair and open competition,” Clementi said. “So, the due process is important. In line with this, I hope the government will encourage well-qualified candidates to apply. So there is a strong and diverse field, rather than putting them off by giving the impression that there is already a preferred candidate.”
“The point I want to make is impartiality starts at the top of the organization, it doesn’t start halfway down,” Clementi added. “It starts with the chair and the board. If the candidate comes from that sort of background, he or she will need to be able to demonstrate to you that they have left their strong political views at the door.”
A member of the committee later asked both Davie and Clementi to comment on alleged anti-Black and anti-Semitic statements by Moore, asking them if they found them personally abhorrent. Both declined to comment.
Elsewhere, Davie confirmed that the BBC is drawing up a social media code of conduct for its presenters, as he was asked repeatedly about ex-soccer player and highly-paid commentator Gary Lineker’s personal opinions on Twitter.