Maxi Powell, Black Information Link, March 7, 2008
Over the last 13 weeks we have seen the BBC London News devote hours of coverage on the issue of Lee Jasper role at the Mayors Office. Researchers have been working round the clock forensically studying acres of material including stolen emails from City Hall as well as contacting hundreds of black Londoners seeking any information about the activities of Lee Jasper. A full team of researchers was employed to undertake the task of ferreting out anything that could be questioned. The objective was clear the BBC wanted to find evidence of corruption, fraud or anything else that could be used to discredit Lee Jasper former Senior Policy Director of the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone.
The BBC London team used its vast resources on line and radio combined with television to engineer a sense of manufactured crisis around Lee Jasper on of the most senior black figures in the United Kingdom and its news reports sought to suggest impropriety and high corruption.
Of course we are in the heated atmosphere of the London Mayoral elections but even taking this account this account the coverage of this story has been deemed excessive. Of course impropriety in public life will always be of interest to the media and wider public and in no way can the right of the BBC to look into these matters be questioned. However what can and should be questioned is the disproportionate time given to this story by the BBC.
In addition to BBC London News, BBC Radio, BBC Radio 4 and the BBC on line pages, the topical Sunday Politics Show programme covered the issues in some depth on a number of occasions. The BBC harassed anyone connected with Lee Jasper including the charity the 1990 Trust whom it recently accused, without a shred of evidence of failing to properly account for project funding received some five years ago. This is despite the fact the 1990 Trust one of the most well regarded black charities in the country has a full set of audited accounts for the year in question filed with the Charity Commission. All those agencies funding the project were happy with the project outcomes and have never raised any issues in relation to the project itself.
Then there was the now infamous Brixton Base working with disaffected black youths in Lambeth much reporting of possible fraud and ‘ inappropriate ‘ interventions by Lee Jasper. The first allegation picked up by the Evening Standard has yet to be proved and increasingly sources close to the inquiry say that serious fraud is unlikely to have taken place. On the issue of Lee Jasper ‘ interventions’ the GLA had looked at this along with the LDA long before the BBC covered the story and determined that Lee Jasper broke no rules.
The Kamp Africa affair did claim the scalp of a female junior member of the Mayors Office for failing to admit to her free jolly to Nigeria. She admitted she lied and she resigned end of story you would think. But whatever the justification of the BBC this matter can hardly be described as significant in news terms except of course in the context of a racially charged atmosphere within the BBC newsroom and that the staff member worked with Lee Jasper.
The sum total of this massive investigative effort funded by the licence payer? Lee Jasper forgot to declare a couple of relatively minor matters and the BBC believes that a project delivered by the Trust was not value for money. Hardly hold the front page stuff and yet the BBC has allowed senior personnel such as Tim Donavan their Senior Political editor who is of course white, as are the all, if not the vast majority of BBC London senior staff. The record of the BBC in employing black people in senior positions is a disgrace and the constant downgrading of black presenters within BBC London, their failure to invest in them and recognise their skills and expertise is evidence of the level of institutional racism at the Beeb. When examining their outputs and employment practices it’s hard to believe they are reporting in one of the world’s most diverse cities.
Insiders at the BBC particularly Black and Ethnic Minority staff are appalled at what they describe as a ‘ racist witch hunt’ with reports that some reporters and presenters being warned for simply raising their concerns about the BBC’s lack of balance in relation to this story. A climate of fear and intimidation has developed at the BBC and many staff feel deeply intimidated by the racism that has been unleashed by the BBC.
This failure to achieve some sort of balance has resulted in the BBC London team no longer being trusted by black Londoners. The team has faced increasing difficulty in attracting black people to appear on its programmes as a direct result. Put plainly the BBC has deeply damaged its reputation for fairness and balance within London’s black communities.
So the question for the Governors at the BBC and senior staff is can you justify this coverage in terms of news values? Can you demonstrate proportionality and balance and is the fact that there is no significant senior personal at BBC London beginning to demonstrate itself in the disproportionate focus on a leading London Black figure? How much has the BBC London spent on this compared with other more important issues?
As on young black man said recently ‘BBC in London is in real danger of being known as the British Broadcaster for Caucasians’