Thursday 19 September 2019

BBC editors fear accusations of London bias, John Sergeant claims

The veteran broadcaster and journalist also criticised Channel 4 moving its headquarters to Leeds.

John Sergeant (Ian West/PA)
John Sergeant (Ian West/PA)

By Sherna Noah, PA Senior Entertainment Correspondent

The BBC is  “carting people around the country at great expense” due to the fear of being “accused of metropolitan bias”, John Sergeant has said.

The broadcaster and ex-Strictly Come Dancing star, 75, recalled being “invariably sent as far away from London as possible” while reporting for The One Show.

He told Radio Times: “A researcher for BBC Breakfast told me recently how nice it would be if I came up to Salford and joined them on their sofa instead of being interviewed down the line from a studio in London.

“Flattering, of course, but I couldn’t help thinking that with train tickets and taxis this would involve considerable cost.

“Throughout my career I have marvelled at the way the BBC have put up with demands from the regions, even if that sometimes involves carting people and equipment around the country at great expense.”

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John Sergeant dancing with Kristina Rihanoff on Strictly (Guy Levy/BBC/PA)

Sergeant also criticised the relocation of Channel 4 headquarters to Leeds, saying “the total cost is expected to be more than £50 million”.

He said the BBC’s “policy seems more sensible” because “everyone pays the licence fee and therefore everyone should have access to the benefits”.

But the former BBC political correspondent revealed: “I became increasingly irritated by the demands of ‘ABL: Anywhere But London’.

“The policy has been treated as a form of political correctness, with BBC editors fearful of being accused of metropolitan bias.”

The BBC decided to move a large part of its operations to MediaCity in Salford in 2004.

Sergeant added “the political necessity of regional involvement sometimes seems like an expensive form of virtue signalling”.

PA Media

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