Media in the Press 11.3.11

Post-graduate Journalism student, Alessandro Brunelli, casts his eyes over the media stories making the press today…

It's one of those days for the BBC. The Corporation is caught in crossfire following the decision to move the production of political debate programme, Question Time, from London to Glasgow and is also facing criticism by Lord Chris Patten, who is the preferred candidate to take over the role as BBC Trust chair in May.

Yesterday, allmediascotland reported the appointment of a new Question Time editor, Nicolai Gentchev, following a decision by his predecessor, Ed Harvard, last month, that he didn't want to be relocated to Glasgow.

The Scottish Daily Mail (page 4) reports that Lord Patten, former Tory MP and Hong Kong governor, while discussing his possible appointment with a committee of MPs last night, is said to have expressed his disappointment about the Beeb's “swagger” and the high salaries earned by its managers, who he claimed to be paid “as if they were at Barclays”.

Although the committee can't directly block Patten's appointment, his chances of taking over the role would be jeopardised following a negative verdict by the MPs.

Yesterday, the Mail reported BBC Trust chair, Sir Michael Lyons, who is stepping down at the end of next month, attacking the Corporation for a lack of 'moral compass', including over 'Sachsgate', when presenters, Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand, left offensive messages on the telephone answer machine of actor, Andrew Sachs.

On the same page, under the headline, 'Left-winger is given top job at Question Time', TV correrspondent, Paul Revoir, covers concerns by Tory MP Philip Davies, following the appointment of Gentchev as the new editor of Question Time.

Davies is reported saying: “We've come to probably expect Question Time to have a less-than-representative audience and to be hostile to the Government and to have a Left-leaning panel.”

It follows the discovery that Gentchev wrote an article on welfare dependency for the International Socialism Journal in 1995 and worked for the Socialist Review up until 2003.

He then joined the BBC five years go, where he's currently editor of BBC Radio Scotland's news programme, Good Morning Scotland.

A BBC spokesperson is quoted defending Gentchev, saying he “joined the Corporation long after the pieces were published” and that “it is nonsense to suggest they have any bearing on his impartiality”.

The Herald (page 10) and the Scottish Daily Express (page 11) also cover the appointment of Hailey Valentine as the new Question Time executive editor.

The Express claims Valentine will have a hard time persuading current presenter, David Dimbleby, to accept the move to Glasgow.

Both papers quote BBC's Director of News, Helen Boaden, saying: “Question Time has an outstanding new team to lead it. Nicolai and Hayley have a great depth of experience in the political institutions across the UK. They will ensure that one of the BBC's most important programmes goes from strength to strength.”

Meanwhile, The Scottish Sun – in a story billed as 'exclusive' by Whitehall Editor, Clodagh Hartley (page 2) – attacks both the BBC and MPs over the sums believed to have been earned by the latter to appear on BBC TV and radio.

Several MPs are involved, including Labour's Diane Abbott, who is reported to have earned £25,000 over the course of a year on the politics show, This Week; plus Michael Gove, who is understood to have earned £1000 for two appearances on Newsnight Late Review; and former LibDem leader, Charles Kennedy, who is said to have been paid £1500 for taking part in the show, Have I Got News For You.

Staying with The Scottish Sun (page 33), and in another 'exclusive' – this time by Neil Syson – it is being reported that the BBC is planning to merge Radio 5 live with its local radio stations.

Radio 5 live is expected to move from its current frequencies to the positions currently being occupied by the local BBC stations.

The decision follows a 16 per cent budget cut, and the fear is that all BBC local stations might disappear, potentially putting hundreds of people out of a job.

Finally, moving back to the Scottish Daily Mail (page 17), the Richard Littlejohn column strongly criticises a complaint said to have been submitted three days ago to the BBC by the Labour Party, supposedly claiming that TV coverage of the Government's budget cuts is biased.

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