THE CONTINUING STORY OF UK MEDIA BANKERISATION
Evidence of unhealthy links between Tory papers, HSBC, the culture media & sport Minister, and the BBC continues to build. Now controversial BBC Trust Chair Rona Fairhead is to face a Public Accounts Committee interrogation. The Slog looks into her past, how she got the job, and why a banker is in the CM&S hotseat.
With two of Britain’s most legendary Fleet Street titles now owned by non-dom tax-evaders, an active HSBC banker in the Chair at the BBC Trust, and a banker who appointed her in charge at the Dept of Culture, Media & Sport, it is perhaps not surprising such papers have been caught peddling banker wares in their editorial. The main bank involved of course is HSBC, which has been given a suspiciously soft ride in the past by…spookily, the Telegraph and the BBC.
Equally unastonishing is the fact that CM&S Secretary Sajid Javid doesn’t seem that interested in ‘investigating’ the situation. I can see where he’s coming from: it is, after all, a bit tiresome playing Checkers with yourself. But as the Beeb itself admitted early this morning, Fairhead (left) got the BBC job because of Mr David’s personal recommendation to Mrs Windsor of Buckingham Palace.
Anyway, to spare him any embarrassment or boredom, BBC director general Tony Hall jumped in two days ago to say he didn’t talk about the BBC’s investigation into HSBC with Rona as to do so “would have been improper”. This is a bit like saying that to blow the gaff on the wolf was an unwarranted invasion into the private relationship of Red Riding Hood and grandma. But anyway, that’s what he said.
What has Sajid David said? Well, about this little dust-up, nothing so far. But a month ago today he said this while addressing journalists:
“Democracy needs journalists to function. Our journalists face insidious threats from other quarters, be they commercial, judicial or political.”
However, since the cash-for-coverage scandal broke, Mr David has said nothing again. But last November, he told another CM&S gathering that he was “ruling nothing out when looking at future funding options for the BBC”. At that session, by the way, Ms Fairhead revealed nothing about her HSBC connections and role. But Sajid David hired her – so he must have known. Especially since, as a former Deutsche Bank high-flier, he met lots of financial journalists….and Fairhead was (until ousted in April 2014) in the hot seat at the Financial Times. I suppose one must also wonder why nobody on the C&MSC thought to Google the lady, and ask her the question.
One question I keep asking myself and others is why Sajid has, um, no credentials at all for the job he’s in: he’s a very bright and ambitious bloke, but he isn’t active in sport, has never worked in the media, and is in no way a culture-vulture. He says his favourite leisure activity is “taking my time over a smooth cigar”, which doesn’t even make the long list for consideration as an Olympic sport. He approves of ticket touts “because they fill a gap in the market”. And his only known cultural connection is….he’s a Trekkie. Yes, our Culture Secretary sees Star Trek as an artistic gem.
“It’s culture Jim, but not as we know it,” Said First Officer and Vulcanologist Sajid Spock, “this appointment is illogical. Unless….er, beam me up Scottie!”.
If I just use the camera to pull out from ECU and reveal a broader horizon, we can tot up the dots:
The Chairman of the BBC Trust is a banker with a still-continuing relationship with HSBC. The Minister of Trade was for several years the CEO of HSBC. The BBC carried out a damning investigation into HSBC while Fairhead had a seat in both camps. The Minister of Culture, Media & Sport was a banker, and he hired Fairhead. Sajid David was put into the CM&S role by David Cameron, whose father was a stockbroker and offshore tax dodger. The main Conservative-leaning newspaper in Britain worked with HSBC on a cash-for-coverage deal….while Fairhead was an advisor to them on media and other relations. And now we read that Fairhead will give evidence to the Public Accounts Committee alongside HSBC chief executive Stuart Gulliver next Monday. Margaret Hodge – the Labour Peer who heads up the PAC – is on the record as saying that the BBC Trust should “look at” Mrs Fairhead’s past on the HSBC board: “There are clearly question marks arising out of her role,” she told the BBC.
The word HSBC appear six times in that last para, and the BBC four times. There’s obviously a natural marriage on the cards: I feel a relaunch coming on: the HSBBC – Highly Suspect British Bankers’ Club.
I’ll take bets on what happens next. 3-1 it turns into a pointless election bunfight in which the first casualty is calm analysis. 2-1 on that David Cameron announces an Enquiry, which will not report until after the General Election in May.
At the moment, it looks to me like Crony capitalism meets Commercialisation of the media. I suspect it looks like that to everyone with a functioning left frontal lobe. But whether a single voter anywhere will give a damn…well, that’s another matter.
Which will not, of course, stop The Slog from poking at this little nest of neohornets. Stay tuned.