The two events are not connected, I’m sure: just as the BBC has prevailed upon controversial TV host Robert Kilroy-Silk to give up his show, it has hired the editor-in-chief of the network famous for airing tapes of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, along with jihadist propaganda of all kinds: Al-Jazeera.
The Guardian is bland about Kilroy-Silk. He just happens to be choosing this time to move to a different position in the corporation, after a simple eight-hour meeting:
Robert Kilroy-Silk has agreed to quit as presenter of the BBC’s morning talkshow after 17 years just a week after the row blew up over his anti-Arab diatribe in the Sunday Express.
In a carefully worded statement agreed by both sides, Kilroy-Silk said he believed it was the right time to leave the programme and concentrate on other projects but it is clear that he was given no choice by BBC bosses.
After a marathon eight hour meeting with BBC bosses today, the corporation announced that Kilroy-Silk would leave the show but that his TV production company will continue to make the programme with a different host.
But the former MP is set to take on new roles at the BBC after the corporation paid warm tribute to his “authority and style” and called him “a substantial force in the media industry.”
Kilroy-Silk said: “I believe this is the right moment to leave the programme and concentrate my energies in other directions. I will continue to lead the Kilroy Television Company Ltd and in addition to our existing commitments to the BBC, we will be bringing new ideas and programmes to the BBC and other broadcasters.” . . .
The BBC’s director of television, Jana Bennett, said presenters of news and current affairs shows could not express “uncomfortable” views without their impartiality being compromised but was at pains to stress that the decision was not about freedom of speech.
“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,” said Ms Bennett.
Indeed, presenters of highly controversial views are quite welcome on the BBC.
After all, there is Tom Paulin, whom the Telegraph has described as “the poet and Oxford don, has continued to be a regular contributor to BBC2’s Newsnight Review arts programme, despite being quoted in an Egyptian newspaper as saying that Jews living in the Israeli-occupied territories were ‘Nazis’ who should be ‘shot dead’.”
And now joining Paulin at the Beeb is Al-Jazeera editor-in-chief Ibrahim Hilal. The BBC itself reports:
The Arabic satellite TV channel al-Jazeera says its editor-in-chief has submitted his resignation.
According to an al-Jazeera spokesman, Ibrahim Helal said he had had “a tempting offer” from the BBC.
The charity BBC World Service Trust confirmed that Mr Helal was joining to work on a variety of media training projects over the next two years.
Al-Jazeera has been criticised by the US for airing recorded messages from Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden.
And in a consummate understatement:
Some officials in Washington have described it as being anti-American and encouraging Islamic militancy, especially since the US-led war in Iraq.
Well, I think Hilal should take over as host of Kilroy-Silk’s program. That would be the clearest possible reflection of the prevailing tendencies at the BBC. (Thanks to LGF for both news links.)