The Skimmer

Connections ... between the BBC and Blair

Connections ... between the BBC and Blair
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The distinguishing characteristic of the three-part documentary on the Blair years which ended on BBC1 last Sunday was not just that it failed to tell us things we didn't already know. No, what was most intriguing about it was the web of interconnecting BBC-Blairite links that lay behind it. Consider the following.


The series was made for the BBC by Juniper, an independent production company run by Samir Shah, who used to run BBC Westminster. An intelligent man of strong Blairite sympathies, he does more than just run Juniper -- he is also a non-executive director on the board of the BBC.


Juniper's managing director is Richard Clemmow. He used to be Head of News at the BBC. He is also married to Jana Bennett, who is "Head of Vision" at the BBC; as befits her Orwellian title, that makes her one of the top four executives at the Beeb (though not an especially inspiring one).


Does all this look and sound a little incestuous? You may think so; we couldn't possibly comment. But just to round things off let us remind that the journalist chosen to interview Blair for the series was David Aaronovitch, who in the days when he was a Big Lefty used to work with Samir Shah at the BBC. Now he's a fully paid up Blairite columnist for The Times. So naturally he was the man chosen to hurl some fast balls (or were they gentle full tosses?) at our ex-prime minister.


This BBC-Blair-Juniper nexus will be too cosy for some; but it might be lucrative for others. Word is that the budget for the series was around £1m, which is (strangely) over one-third more than budgets for similar series in the past and would mean a nice little earner for Juniper, which could expect to see £100,000 of it go to its bottom line. There's also speculation that Blair got a £150,000 appearance fee. We have no idea if these figures are accurate but, since its public money, we are sure either the BBC or Juniper will rush to put the real figures on the record, in the interests of transparency etc.


While you're holding your breath for that to happen, answer the following: what would be the outcry if a bunch of Thatcherites, with strong connections to the BBC, had been given a ton of money by the Beeb to make a three-part series on Maggie in the immediate aftermath of her premiership. We venture that it would have been quite loud!