Jamie Angus, the young editor of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme appointed to the role a year last May, has risen through the BBC ranks virtually without a trace.
Aged 40, he’s already had stints as editor of sister programme World at One and as acting editor of Newsnight. He was parachuted into that role after the McAlpine libel fiasco, but failed to get the job full-time when Director General Tony Hall decided it needed more left-wing influence and would go to Guardian deputy editor Ian Katz.
Despite Angus’s high-profile roles, search Google, and you draw a virtual blank on him, apart from this piece I wrote on the News-watch website a few months back.
But now, he’s decided to come down from his BBC mountain and has give an interview to – wait for it, the BBC house organ, The Guardian. On first sight, it’s one of those soft-touch meejah ‘profiles’ without an obvious peg. But read between the lines and it speaks volumes about the man and his mission – as well as the Corporation he works for.
‘BBC propagandist’ is emblazoned there as clearly as if it had been extruded through a stick of Blackpool rock.
The first thing that hit me, though, was that on the momentous occasion of his first national newspaper interview about his role was his list of priorities. There’s not a squeak about the integrity of its journalism – for example, about how and whether his programme is fulfilling its role as the BBC’s declared flagship news and current affairs programme.
Many doubt that, but our Jamie’s priorities seem rather different: they are (in no particular order), whether there are enough female presenters, whether Thought for the Day should be changed, the need to make the ‘pop-py’ items he has introduced to the programme more ‘mainstream’, and how to procure more 35-54 listeners, though he appears to already have the answer: new six-second slots that appeal to them.
Of course, such issues have some significance n the overall fabric of the programme because the appeal of Today is that it does have variety and changes of pace and tone as well as the more serious interviews. But they are minutiae.
It seems astonishing to me (as someone who has been professionally monitoring this programme for almost 15 years) that – given that not a single external BBC interview happens without clearance at the highest PR levels – this would appear to be this thrusting new editor’s main public agenda for the BBC’s flagship programme.
Buried in the interview are some more worrying points. First, it’s clear that Angus is completely sold on what he calls the ‘pluralist’ agenda. He states:
“One of the great things about living in Britain is that we are a pluralist society that is immensely tolerant of a wide range of different religions. I think Thought for the Day is one of the hidden pillars that absolutely supports that architecture.”
That seems like BBC code for something rather less tolerant. What he actually means is that Thought for the Day has in the past been far too Christian and he is working with the rest of his chums to ensure that the need for such ‘pluralism’ ensures that Christian voices are actually heard as little as possible. And in a wider news and current affairs sense, those with ‘establishment’ views are often ignored or swamped out by the need for ‘diversity’.
And far more serious is what he reveals about his BBC-biased attitude towards editorial impartiality.
Mr Angus says he ‘defended’ his decision to allow Lord Lawson on to the programme to discuss the Somerset floods, despite a complaint being upheld against the programme as Lord Lawson was not an expert on the subject and therefore had only ‘opinions’ and not scientific views.
“The BBC can’t say, ‘we aren’t going to put that point of view on air because scientists tell us it’s not right’.
Actually, he means the reverse, as becomes clear:
“People always raise flat earth at this point, but if you go into a pub on Oxford Street you won’t find anyone who says the earth is flat, but you will probably find a couple of people who are unconvinced by the science on climate change”.
There, in a sentence, is the entire problem with current BBC treatment of editorial impartiality. Angus clearly thinks, that:
In a busy, typical pub (presumably that’s why he chooses Oxford Street) you will find only a couple of people who dare not to believe in the ‘science’ of climate change, and they are akin (but not quite as bad as) flat-earthers.
And the ‘science’ of climate change is so well established that those who do not accept it do not have a legitimate position – rather, they have not yet been ‘convinced’ by it.
The article also reveals that young Jamie began his career as a researcher for the Liberal Democrats – no doubt under the tutelage of climate change fanatics such as Chris Huhne and Ed Davey. How very, very fitting.