Thursday, January 15, 2015

Un-European Activities Committee

If you've got 90 minutes to kill, try yesterday's European Scrutiny Select Committee session, with Rona Fairhead and Richard Ayre of the BBC Trust.

The loony gavotte between Bill Cash and his henchmen and the BBC over bending to the will of Parliament continued. Lord Patten first refused to attend, and then was saved from the ordeal by ill-health. Rona and Richard turned up, bearing news that the Director General Lord Hall would not - and might, if pushed, make the Committee issue a warrant. Richard Ayre explained that the DG was mindful that saying yes to all Select Committee invitations laid BBC editorial decision-making open to relentless questioning on the rights and wrongs of editorial decisions by MPs - and this was, after all, an election year.

Starey-eyed Jacob Rees-Mogg and James Clappison licked their lips at the thought of the Serjeant-at-Arms breaking into W1A and dragging Tone out. The rest of the committee read out questions written by Bill C, who had lost his voice. The MPs said they had important further questions to ask, and the BBC was using sophistry to place itself above accountability.

Then fellow committee member Michael Connarty revealed what sort of important further questions he had on his mind for Auntie - how Top Gear was misinforming the electorate, how humanism wasn't getting a fair hearing, and why the BBC had failed to report the Committee's self-evidently important report last November.

Rona and Richard tried a little light deflection - BBC Parliament was reaching record audiences, BBC News had monstered the story of the European arrest warrants, BBC News had a Europe Editor (not Gavin Esler, but Gavin Hewitt, Richard) and, spookily handily, there was a report on the previous night's Ten O'Clock tv bulletin (not "News at Ten", Rona) on an EU change on GM crops.

Eventually the Cash Kraken awoke - spool to 15.54.35. It was indeed the failure to mention the Committee's very important report that had him spitting blood from his damaged larynx. This failure was a self-evident breach of the Charter, and somebody must be punished. In future, all news items and their contributors were to be vetted by Bill and the Committee for appropriate European impartiality.

If I were Tony, a short spell in prison would be preferable.

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