During a media briefing yesterday, PM Keith Rowley threatened to make a formal complaint to the British Government about a BBC report on the Venezuelan issue in TT.
Clearly Rowley does not understand that neither Boris Johnson, nor anyone else in the UK Cabinet, can admonish the BBC on the basis of not liking what is being reported. Freedom of the press in most serious countries does not work that way.
It is not like the many Boards in T&T, including TTT, where the Cabinet appoints the Board and can issue instructions on pain of being fired if they refuse, as allegedly occurred with Espinet, Denise Demming, our Miss Universe and others.
The BBC’s main source of funding is not from the state and therefore does not have to rely on their Chancellor of the Exchequer (in our case the Minister of Finance) for funding. Each UK household pays a yearly license fee which makes up the bulk of BBC revenues.
The BBC does not allow advertising and therefore cannot be dictated to by businesses. The UK is not a dictatorship.
The BBC is globally known for its independence and is protected from political interference. Firstly BBC has a high and widely diffused regard for its past traditions including that of independence and records of public service excellence. Another is the continuing popularity of its everyday television and radio programming and a continuing extensive exposure to it. Thirdly, the BBC has always had strong and close cultural and financial ties to the creative production sector of British television.
Fourthly, the BBC’s cause has been vigorously promoted by an array of civic-minded non-governmental organizations, some community, some nationally based.
Lastly, an important source of strength was undoubtedly the prompt appointment of a Director General, Mr. Tony Hall. The Director General not only was able to articulate the case for sustaining the scale, scope and independence of the BBC but also set various efficiencies in train, including the elimination of some layers of corporate management and limitations on higher salary payments. He also announced an intention to create a new, large, well-funded and organizationally distinct arm of the corporation: BBC Studios.
Its very Charter calls for an agreement by all directors that when undertaking their duties as members of the Board, they will comply at all times with this Code of Practice, act in good faith and in the public interest.
In addition, the Board will follow the Seven Principles of Public Life: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.
So Dr Rowley, you can go ahead and write. And just as the Privy Council threw your Attorney General’s letter in the proverbial dustbin, this too will be the faith of your letter of complaint against the BBC. But only after TT’s Prime Minister demonstrates his complete lack of knowledge of the operations of the fourth estate in a mature democracy.
MP for Naparima