The BBC, Kilroy and freedom of speech

So Robert Kilroy-Silk has quit as a BBC presenter for making some controversial remarks in a newspaper article.

The BBC claims that the issue was never about freedom of speech:

Critics had accused the BBC of gagging Mr Kilroy-Silk by suspending his BBC One show, but Director of BBC Television Jana Bennett insisted the corporation’s decision had not been about freedom of speech.

She said: “Presenters of this kind of programme have a responsibility to uphold the BBC’s impartiality.

“This does not mean that people who express highly controversial views are not welcome on the BBC but they cannot be presenters of a news, current affairs or topical discussion programme.”

So one the one hand it was never about freedom of speech, but on the other hand the BBC does not want its presenters to express controversial views even when they’re not presenting a programme and are doing so representing only themselves!

It’d be one thing (and entirely right) to demand impartiality whilst presenting a news or current affairs program for the BBC. It is quite another to demand BBC presenters keep controversial views to themselves even when they’re not working for the BBC.

If the BBC are serious about this policy, they must stop using MPs as presenters of Have I Got News For You lest they make controversial remarks during their political careers.

They must also prevent their presenters from presenting their own opinions on other BBC programs, such as Question Time, Any Questions or This Week.

Kilroy-Silk should not have given in, though I expect he’s saved his company’s work with the BBC by doing so. All that said I’ve long thought the Kilroy programme to be crud…

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