BBC must look BEYOND Oxbridge, says Tim Davie

BBC must look BEYOND Oxbridge for new staff: Director-general Tim Davie will launch ‘fundamental’ overhaul of recruitment process because it’s ‘ridiculous’ to assume best candidates always come from top universities

  • Said he is not ‘anti-Oxbridge’, but those without academic background should have chance 
  • Added it would be ‘ridiculous’ if only route into creative industries was through leading universities
  • Corporation has just entered negotiations about future cost of television licence
  • Mr Davie wants to ensure there is public support for BBC and content it provides 

The BBC needs to ‘fundamentally change’ how it recruits employees, according to the broadcaster’s director-general.

Speaking during an event at the Creative Coalition 2020 festival, which hosts discussions about the creative industries, Tim Davie discussed the importance of improving the diversity of the BBC’s workforce.

He said that while he is not ‘anti-Oxbridge’, jobs should be accessible to people who do not have the same academic background.

‘You are going to get some of the best people who broke through social barriers, go to the top universities and be fantastic candidates,’ he said.

The BBC needs to ‘fundamentally change’ how it recruits employees, according to the broadcaster’s director-general Tim Davie

However he said it would be ‘ridiculous’ if the only route into the creative industries was through leading universities.

‘I think sometimes, in patches, we have fallen foul of that,’ he said.

Mr Davie also said he will not spend the next few years ‘in the bunker’ dealing with political arguments over the future of funding for the broadcaster.

The corporation has just entered into negotiations about the future cost of the television licence and the Government is also consulting on whether to decriminalise non-payment of the fee.

However Mr Davie said his primary focus would be on ensuring there is broad public support for the BBC and the content it provides.

He said: ‘I think it’s really important that people like myself in my type of jobs are not in the bunker, actually.’

He said that while he is not ‘anti-Oxbridge’, jobs should be accessible to people who do not have the same academic background

The BBC is ‘utterly dependent’ on people having a positive view of its work, he said, adding: ‘Public support overwhelmingly is based on whether a household gets good value from us and feels that it is important in their lives. 

‘Everything else is secondary.’ 

It comes after the BBC’s diversity chief June Sarpong said she was ‘gaslighted’ by TV bosses during her career and that they feared allowing a black person to represent a mainstream show. 

The broadcaster, 43, has been tasked with improving diversity on screen and behind the scenes at the BBC.

She said that ‘we are past the point of empty rhetoric’ and she hopes that new talent ‘doesn’t necessarily need to go through the things I went through in my career.’

BBC’s diversity chief June Sarpong said she was ‘gaslighted’ by TV bosses during her career 

Sarpong began her media career with the radio station Kiss 100 and later became an MTV presenter and one of the female faces of Channel 4’s daytime teen-aimed programme T4. 

Sarpong told the Creative Coalition 2020 conference: ‘I understand first hand what the problems are and who the problem is as well and where the barriers are to progress,’ she said.

‘I’ve been in rooms with commissioners where you’ve been gaslighted.

‘I’ve been up for jobs and, last minute, there’s been fear of whether or not a black person can present a mainstream show.’

Ms Sarpong’s comments came after veteran broadcaster Mark Mardell warned that the BBC’s diversity drive would ‘annoy and dismay’ its audience.

In a parting shot as he left the corporation after a 30-year career, Mr Mardell expressed his frustration during an interview on Radio 4’s Feedback show. 

Mr Mardell told radio host Roger Bolton: ‘We do need to get young people and we do need to get people who feel unserved by the BBC. 

‘But it doesn’t mean you annoy and dismay your original, basic audience.’

He added: ‘We have to make difficult and harsh cuts, and if I truly believe that the only fat on the bone, the only thing that could be cut, was reporting, and the programme’s budgets, then I say that’s a great shame and does great damage, but we’ve got to do it to survive.  

‘But is there no other way that the BBC can make cuts? Is there nowhere that any of the five or six people that have “head” and “news” in their title can look and see other areas where there’s too much fat on the body of the BBC? 

Ms Sarpong’s comments came after veteran broadcaster Mark Mardell warned that the BBC’s diversity drive would ‘annoy and dismay’ its audience 

‘I do worry, yes I do very much worry, because I think reporting is absolutely at the heart of everything we do, it’s fundamental. If you don’t know what people say, it’s why people misread Brexit, it’s why people misread Trump, it’s why people misread several elections.

‘Not just because, well we did trust the opinion polls continually too much, but we’re not going out there and listening to people’s stories, and you’ve got to do that.

‘I think command economy of news probably doesn’t work. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.’ 

Earlier in the programme, the former World This Weekend presenter said: ‘I don’t approve of everything that’s being done at the BBC and I’ll be fairly frank about that.    

His comments followed the BBC announcing that it will spend £100million of its TV budget to increase diversity and produce inclusive content over the next three years.   

Conflicts of interest: The BBC stars topping up their hefty salaries as they cash in with huge payouts from banks, car giants and oil companies

JON SOPEL, £245,000-a-year BBC salary: Jon Sopel, 60, is paid up to £245,000 a year in his role as the broadcaster’s North America Editor, covering all aspects of US news including politics, policy and business.

But the presenter last year sparked a conflict of interest row after accepting tens of thousands of pounds from the biggest bank on Wall Street.

Mr Sopel boosted his pay by speaking at a string of JP Morgan events – despite it posing an apparent conflict of interest. 

Jon Sopel presided over two sessions at JP Morgan’s Global Markets Conference in Paris in 2017 – which included an interview with Mr Dimon. And in 2016, Mr Sopel appeared at JP Morgan’s Board Summit in New York. Pictured is Mr Sopel giving an off-the-record keynote address at the world’s biggest tobacco company’s Miami conference in April

Mr Sopel presided over two sessions at JP Morgan’s Global Markets Conference in Paris in 2017.

And in 2016, Mr Sopel appeared at JP Morgan’s Board Summit in New York, where he interviewed a former president of the European Commission about what Brexit ‘means for global business’.

Sources say he was paid around £35,000 for the Paris conference. He is thought to have received around £20,000 for the New York event.

He is also known to have hosted other JP Morgan events. Mr Sopel’s agent Mary Greenham said: ‘He has done events for JP Morgan and the BBC are aware of this.’ 

Earlier in 2019, he spoke at an event by Philip Morris International, the world’s biggest tobacco company. 

Mr Sopel lives in Washington with his wife, but keeps a four-bedroom house in Hampstead worth more than £2million and a £1.2million flat in London’s Belsize Park.

MISHAL HUSSAIN, £255,000-a-year BBC salary: The Radio 4’s Today programme presenter, 47, took part in at least 10 functions and in January appeared at the Oslo Energy Forum.

Ms Husain moderated the event – which she has also been apart of at least five times previously – but it is not known how much she was paid.

However other BBC stars are listed on speaking agency websites as being able to charge between £10,000 and £25,000 to attend corporate events.

At the forum Ms Husain moderated discussions on topics such as ‘climate action in a world of cherished entitlements’.

As well as the three-day Oslo Energy Forum appearances, Ms Husain has attended a conference staged by Equinor, Norway’s state-controlled oil company. 

BBC presenter Mishal Husain (pictured) was paid to appear at Norwegian gas and oil industry events, causing critics to call for tighter rules

HUW EDWARDS, £495,000-a-year BBC salary: Huw Edwards has raked in an estimated £400,000 in speaking fees in the last five years.

The News at Ten anchor has fronted at least 16 events since the start of 2014, and commands fees of up to £25,000 a time. 

He is also thought to have hosted numerous other events over that period – but the BBC does not make the engagements public or keep a central register so the extent of his moonlighting work is unknown. 

Mr Edwards does not tend to accept money from firms that could be a conflict of interest. He also undertakes charity events for free. However, he has fronted a series of events for railway firms, regional law societies and insurance brokers.

The News at Ten anchor has fronted at least 16 events since the start of 2014, and commands fees of up to £25,000 a time

The News at Ten anchor fronted at least 16 events since the start of 2014, and commands fees of up to £25,000 a time. Pictured, Edwards hosting the British Insurance Brokers Association conference where Boris Johnson revealed his ambition to be Prime Minister

In 2019, he hosted the National Rail Awards in London and also fronted events for the Birmingham Law Society, the Women’s Institute and Thames Valley Business Magazine.

He also hosted the British Insurance Brokers Association conference where Boris Johnson revealed his ambition to be Prime Minister. 

According to JLA, one of the speakers’ agencies which has him on their books, he charges between £10,000 and £25,000. 

The BBC said that none of the events broke its impartiality rules.

GREG JAMES, £229,999-a-year BBC salary: Radio 1 DJ Greg James was paid £100,000 by oil giant Shell to front an online campaign which plugged the company’s ‘green’ credentials. 

The 34-year-old, who broadcasts to around 5.6 million listeners each Monday to Thursday, fronted a five-part series for Shell called The Great Travel Hack.

The Top Gear-style programme followed two teams of competitors racing from London to Istanbul while using environmentally friendly vehicles.

Sources close to the PR campaign claimed that James was paid £100,000 to feature in the videos, which have been watched 81 million times since Shell uploaded them to its YouTube channel last October. 

Radio 1 DJ Greg James (pictured in July promoting the Radio 1 ‘Up Yours Corona’ campaign), was paid £100,000 by oil giant Shell to front an online campaign which plugged the company’s ‘green’ credentials

KAMAL AHMED, £209,999-a-year BBC salary: In February, the editorial director of BBC News apologised for accepting a £12,000 payment for speaking at a banker’s conference, adding that he will not be taking any money from organisers. 

Kamal Ahmed is understood to have received £12,000 for a 40-minute appearance at the Aberdeen Standard Investment’s conference, days after telling 450 of his colleagues that their jobs were being cut.

Ahmed – who is listed on the Speakers Associates website in the £10,000 to £25,000 per appearance category – took part in a panel discussion hosted by Steph McGovern, his former BBC colleague who now works for Channel 4.

He came under fire both publicly and within the BBC for his £12,000 fee for the event and subsequently sent an email to colleagues apologising.

Kamal Ahmed is understood to have received £12,000 for a 40-minute appearance at the Aberdeen Standard. The director, who earns between £205,000 and £209,999, is listed on the Speakers Associates website in the £10,000 to £25,000 per appearance category

Ahmed said in his email that he was asked ‘some months ago’ to talk about ‘economic issues’ by the investment firm and that he was not asked to talk about anything related to the BBC.

He is the previous Economics editor at the corporation. 

Ahmed, who earns between £205,000 and £209,999, was one of four senior BBC bosses who sat on bar stools as they announced the job cuts.

He drew criticism after he turned up for the ‘bloodbath’ announcement wearing a black T-shirt and casual trousers.  

Ahmed was one of four senior BBC bosses who sat on bar stools as they announced the job cuts. He drew criticism after he turned up for the ‘bloodbath’ announcement wearing a black T-shirt and casual trousers. Pictured, BBC executives Gavin Allen (left), Naja Nielson (second from left), Jonathan Munro (second from right) and Kamal Ahmed (right) as they announced the cuts

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