Countryside Alliance’s Head of Shooting Liam Stokes writes:
The BBC Trust could not have been clearer in its 2016 report – Chris Packham’s campaigning activities should be subject to regular and formal assessments to avoid harming the BBC’s reputation for impartiality. Based on recent pronouncements those reviews clearly aren’t happening, and we at the Countryside Alliance are prepared to hold the BBC to account.
Of course, the only reason the BBC Trust made that recommendation was because they were forced into action by the Countryside Alliance. We had complained that Mr Packham had referred to game shooters as “the nasty brigade”, language unbecoming of any BBC presenter, let alone one who heads up the public broadcaster’s wildlife programming. In the context of his broader animal rights campaigning, it was clear to us and most other fair-minded people that Mr Packham was using his privileged position afforded to him by the BBC to attack our members.
The BBC Trust came to their bizarre ruling that Mr Packham was not bound by BBC impartiality rules because he is not a BBC employee, a swerve the Beeb seems to be using with increasing regularity as their handling of ‘on-screen talent’ comes under ever greater scrutiny. But they also clearly called on the BBC to regularly and formally assess Mr Packham’s campaigning activities if they wished to continue commissioning him to present flagship wildlife shows like Springwatch.
A Google search for Mr Packham shows that these reviews are not happening. He’s been all over the media, trading on his BBC profile to harangue businesses and local councils, campaigning against grouse shooting in particular. But most strikingly last weekend he led a diminutive protest against badger culling, foxhunting and grouse shooting. This protest would have received no media attention whatsoever were it not for the presence of a BBC presenter leading it, a BBC presenter taking to the streets to call those who disagree with him “psychopaths”.
That’s us he’s talking about. Our members, the people who love and manage our countryside, who are responsible for most of the real conservation that goes on in this country. And we aren’t going to stand for it. We wrote to the BBC and asked that Mr Packham’s activities undergo the formal review we were led to expect, and that he be asked not to lead this march. Maybe he was asked not to and he did it anyway? The Countryside Alliance will find out, and we will be taking action.
Head of Shooting
Follow Liam at @LNJStokes