Daniel Johnson: Charles, you object to the continuing employment of Jonathan Ross and you've decided that as long as he is still at the BBC you won't pay your licence fee. I know this is part of a wider critique of the BBC, but why do you feel so strongly as to risk prosecution?
Charles Moore: Well, sometimes a particular event brings to the fore something that has been going on for ages, and the Jonathan Ross affair was the BBC's credit crunch. So he is, as it were, its Fred Goodwin. What it exposes is how a culture has gone wrong. What you have is the triumphalism of the organisation and the over-indulgence of the star, at the expense of the presumed and often stated values of the corporation, and at the expense of the interests of the licence payer.
And so a corruption that has been building for a long time suddenly appears manifest and dramatic, so that the chap who is paid more than anybody has ever been paid in the history of the BBC by miles — and presumably where your treasure is, there should your heart be also — makes these telephone calls with Russell Brand to Andrew Sachs. And the point about them is not just that they were vile phone calls — this wasn't just off-duty misbehaviour of a star. This was for the show. No, the big idea was that it was a very funny thing to do and that it should be broadcast. And right down the line all the key people either agreed or did nothing about it. And so you could see the whole organisation from star to editor to gofer agreeing with it and, judging by what came out afterwards, thinking how marvellous it was. And then only afterwards beginning to think.
And that showed to me this systemic problem, in which the BBC has lost touch with what it is supposed to be. And since we the listeners or viewers have no power in this matter because we can't take our business elsewhere, the only way that I feel one can effectively protest is to refuse to pay the licence fee. And go on watching TV. I'm going to challenge the BBC's right to make me pay it just to watch TV.
DJ: Christopher, you were Chairman of the BBC Governors from 1996 to 2001 and still strongly support the corporation's broad principles. Why is Charles wrong to be doing what he's doing?
Christopher Bland: I don't think he is wrong. I think Ross should have been fired. I think it was egregiously bad behaviour. Where I would disagree with Charles is in two things: I don't think the BBC's response was triumphal. It was inadequate, it was late, it wasn't thought through, and it didn't deal with the key protagonists anything like severely enough. But it wasn't triumphal — the BBC knew that it had got it wrong, it just didn't respond in a sufficiently firm way.
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