The BBC Is Totally Independent From the State – But Is It?
By the 1960s political vetting was so well entrenched that BBC interviews were resembling Civil Service selection boards. At one time, (according to former senior BBC executive Stuart Hood,) “a Civil Service Commissioner even attended the interviews.”
Hood recalls the selection boards using Whitehall euphemisms for vetting during their post-interview discussions. “Does he play with a straight bat?” or “Does he have snow on the right foot?” were typical BBC expressions for political suitability.
Hood was a key witness of vetting during this period. He had joined the BBC in 1946 and was head of the World Service throughout the 1950s. He became Controller of Programmes in 1961 before leaving in 1964.
He recalls attending BBC Board of Management meetings “During those meetings senior administrative officials used to approach me, show me these slips of paper and say, “I think you should know this,” and then show me an article in Peace News.”
Hood also saw the security files “The investigative reports produced on staff and performers by the security services are testimony to the amount of petty espionage and surveillance to which citizens of our society are subjected.”
Stuart Hood believes this interpretation was spurious. He argues that vetting was a natural consequence of the BBC’s constitution.
“If the BBC was honest about its role, it would admit that it must support the central political authority by virtue of the State licence-fee system. But the Corporation has always had this fantasy about itself as a totally independent social organisation.”
Vetting of BBC Staff Always Had More To Do With Politics Than Security
The British Secret Service clearly saw the political objective as the major issue in their role. This was confirmed by the Observer’s disclosure that, as well as vetting, the security services also provided ‘background briefs’ to the BBC on industrial disputes.
These secret reports included the alleged involvement of subversives in trade union activity. They were delivered every three months to a small number of senior BBC executives, including the head of news and current affairs.
The ‘briefs’ included the activities of radical and subversive political groups and traced their involvement in strikes and campaigns.
The BBC confirmed the reports’ existence, but said they had stopped receiving them by 1985 and in October 1985, the BBC agreed to stop all security vetting except in two areas.
1. Members of staff involved in the planning and operation of broadcasting when British Forces are engaged in armed conflict, as they have access to classified information.
2. The External Services. This was due to the threat of infiltration and intimidation of staff by foreign intelligence services. Overseas broadcasters also had access to information from embassies which could be sensitive. But staff would no longer be asked to sign the Official Secrets Act.
Full report here: http://www.bilderberg.org/mi5bbc.htm
Positive Vetting – Sensitive Posts within the BBC
Around 120 BBC staff are positively vetted by MI5. If they fail to maintain a performance level acceptable to the controller and their P.V. classification is removed they are either removed from their post or sacked.