Professor Khalid Aziz has published a powerful comment piece about Chris Packham and BBC editorial standards in today’s Hampshire Chronicle.
Please see below:
“Is Chris Packham justified in his anti-shooting opinions? Of course, if that is what he really believes and, like Voltaire, I will defend the right of anyone to voice his opinion even though I disagree with it. Is he right, though, to use his exalted position as broadcasting chief birder on the BBC to mount a campaign against shooting? Well that’s a different matter. The trouble is in an increasingly binary world where options are often presented in black and white with no allowance for shades of grey, opinion forming is greatly influenced by the media in all its forms from social media to great institutions such as the BBC.
“The BBC seems have lost the plot when it comes to understanding its responsibilities to the licence fee paying audience. In not reining in Mr Packham it’s almost as if they are allowing him to exercise, like members of the oldest profession in the world, power without responsibility. I spent over a decade of my early working life in Auntie’s employ. Like everyone I still get to see and hear much of the programming output and frankly there are some egregious examples of where the BBC ethos inculcated into me has been thrown out of the window. Nowhere is that more obvious than the morphing of the Natural History output into politicised, right-on diatribes against those who work and, yes, play in the countryside.
“As flag-bearer-in-chief for this change Chris Packham has declared war on country sports. No doubt he believes what he says and in no way is trying to climb on the bandwagon so effectively started by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall with his Fish Fight – highlighting the bonkers EU laws insisting on non-quota bi-catch being returned to the sea to only to die.
“Here I must declare an interest. I have been a shooter all my life – starting at the age of fourteen. I have watched with mounting disbelief how those with little knowledge of the sport and its relationship with the rural economy have sought for ideological reasons to denigrate it in the hope it will be banned. Now Mr Packham has weighed in. Nothing wrong with that except that he is using licence payers’ money to do it.
“When I was employed by the BBC it was made clear that I shouldn’t let whatever opinions I held get in the way of the BBC programming principles of being, legal, decent, honest, and fair. Of course, I was in News and Current Affairs, dealing with politics most of the time. The BBC has built an enviable reputation in Natural History programming with Sir David Attenborough carrying the torch for decades. He is far cleverer than Chris Packham in as much as he makes his points about mankind’s adverse effects on the environment with an understanding of the countervailing tensions. He doesn’t, for example, rail against the poor tuna fishermen of the world hauling these large fish onto 35 degree decks to die of asphyxiation in the baking sun just so we can have conscience-salving “line caught” tuna in cans on our supermarket shelves.
“Chris Packham, as vice-president of the increasingly politicised charity RSPB, fronts a video condemning shooting and totally misses the irony that it’s estimated over 50 million songbirds are killed by cats each year. Let’s see him front a video suggesting cat culling. He’s recently called for a legal ban on woodcock, snipe and golden plover shooting. On our Hampshire shoot where we put down pheasants we have already voluntarily stopped shooting woodcock because of reported declining numbers. Game shooters are not gangsters who need to be reined in by more legislation.
“The BBC allows itself to be dominated by organisations such as the RSPB and RSPCA. On occasions the otherwise estimable Countryfile programme has looked like the RSPB show. Rightly the RSPB supports avian diversity and profundity. I agree. I spend a fortune on feeding our garden birds in the winter.
“Chris Packham would do well to remember who pays him. The BBC should be mindful that if nature programmes want to stray into politics they too should follow the rules – legal, decent, honest and, above all, fair and that should go for the presenters too.”
By Professor Khalid Aziz
Khalid is the Chairman and Founder of Aziz Corporate. His first comprehensive media career spanned the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 with current affairs and business programmes.