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Boris Johnson slaps down Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries over attack on the BBC

Boris Johnson slapped down one of his newest Cabinet ministers today after she questioned the BBC’s long-term future. 

Mr Johnson insisted the ‘great institution’ would be around for ‘a long time to come’ after Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries’ attack on the media monolith.

She told a fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester last night that the public broadcaster could be killed off by streaming services like Netflix within a decade. 

She also took aim at the corporation for alleged nepotism and elitism – despite herself once employing her two daughters on her parliamentary staff.

Asked about Ms Dorries remarks, Mr Johnson told GB News in Manchester: ‘The BBC has been around for a very long time, it’s a great national institution, I’ve no doubt that it will be around for a long time to come.’

Mr Johnson insisted the ‘great institution’ would be around for ‘a long time to come’ after Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries’ attack on the media monolith.

The Culture Secretary demanded change at the organisation, saying it's staff needed to reflect a wider demographic than just people 'whose mum and dads work there'.

The Culture Secretary demanded change at the organisation, saying it’s staff needed to reflect a wider demographic than just people ‘whose mum and dads work there’.

Bias at the BBC 

The BBC has repeatedly been accused of bias by critics

In July, it emerged that the corporation had received a record 500,000 complaints from viewers in a year amid concerns over the broadcaster’s ‘perceived bias’.

The figures were revealed in the BBC’s annual report, which acknowledged that ‘too many people perceive the BBC to be shaped by a particular perspective’.

The list of complaints was topped by Emily Maitlis with her monologue on Newsnight about Dominic Cummings in May 2020.

Ms Maitlis, during a discussion about Mr Cummings’ journey from London to Durham during the first national lockdown, claimed Boris Johnson’s former adviser ‘broke the rules’ adding: ‘The country can see that, and it’s shocked the Government cannot.’

Her speech later prompted 23,674 complaints and broadcasting watchdog Ofcom warned the BBC that hosts must not ‘inadvertently give the impression of setting out personal opinions’

BBC Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty, alongside co-host and Charlie Stayt, also attracted 6,498 complaints after the pair appeared to mock Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick over the size of the Union flag in his office.

Ms Munchetty was later forced to apologise after liking social media posts in support of the on-air comments.

Ms Dorries, 64, demanded change at the organisation, saying its staff needed to reflect a wider demographic than just people  ‘whose mum and dads work there’. 

Speaking at a Conservative Party fringe event, the Liverpudlian Bedfordshire MP said its ‘groupthink mentality’ excluded minorities and people with regional accents.

Asked whether the licence fee would still be compulsory in 10 or 20 years, she said: ‘I can’t look into the future. Will the BBC still be here in 10 years? I don’t know. 

‘We can’t look into the future. It is a very competitive environment at the moment.

‘You have got Amazon Prime, Netflix and other bods coming down the line.

‘This younger generation that are coming through, they certainly watch their television in a very different way to how my generation watched its TV, so who knows where we will be?’

Her comments about nepotism sparked a furious blast from BBC staff including presenter Clive Myrie, who used the Twitter hashtag #mymum to collate examples of staff who didn’t get jobs through their parents.

Ms Dorries herself hit the headline sin 2013 when, as a backbench MP, she was revealed as being among among 28 MPs who gave relatives pay rises at the taxpayers’ expense.

The MP for Mid Bedfordshire, boosted the salary of her daughter Philippa, then 28, into the £40,000-£44,999 pay band from the £30,400 she was earning as a constituency caseworker.

The one-time I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! contestant also paid her daughter Jennifer, then 26, up to £35,000 to work as a ‘senior secretary’.

In her fringe appearance yesterday Ms Dorries insisted she did not want a ‘war’ with the broadcaster but suggested it would have to set out how it will change before the next licence fee settlement, which covers the five years from April 2022. 

Ms Dorries, who went from a working-class background in Liverpool to become a bestselling author and Cabinet minister, hit out at the lack of opportunities in the arts and sports for children with similar upbringings.

At an event hosted by the Telegraph’s Chopper’s Politics podcast, Ms Dorries, who has only been in her role since September’s reshuffle, said she had ‘an interesting meeting’ with BBC director-general Tim Davie and chairman Richard Sharp.

‘The perspective of the BBC is that they will get a settlement fee and then we will talk about how they are going to change,’ the Culture Secretary said.

‘My perspective is ‘tell me how you are going to change and then you get the settlement fee’.

Ms Dorries highlighted a series of issues she had with the broadcaster, including a lack of working-class diversity and perceived political bias.

‘It’s about recognising that access and lack of impartiality are part of your problem,’ she said.

She said there was a ‘groupthink’ at the corporation which ‘excludes working-class backgrounds’.

‘North West, North East, Yorkshire – if you have got a regional accent in the BBC it doesn’t go down particularly well,’ she said.

‘They talk about lots to do with diversity but they don’t talk about kids from working-class backgrounds and that’s got to change.’

Asked how to address that, she said: ‘It’s not about quotas, it’s just about having a more fair approach and a less elitist and a less snobbish approach as to who works for you.’

Speaking at a Conservative Party fringe event the Liverpudlian said its 'groupthink mentality' excluded minorities and people with regional accents.

Speaking at a Conservative Party fringe event the Liverpudlian said its ‘groupthink mentality’ excluded minorities and people with regional accents.

At an event hosted by the Telegraph's Chopper's Politics podcast, Ms Dorries, who has only been in her role since September's reshuffle, said she had 'an interesting meeting' with BBC director-general Tim Davie (pictured) and chairman Richard Sharp

At an event hosted by the Telegraph’s Chopper’s Politics podcast, Ms Dorries, who has only been in her role since September’s reshuffle, said she had ‘an interesting meeting’ with BBC director-general Tim Davie (pictured) and chairman Richard Sharp

Ms Dorries told the event the path from a poor background to the top of a career in the arts or media had ‘completely disappeared’.

‘People I went to school with, from my background – I borrowed shoes to go to school, and people I went to school, who had done exactly the same thing – one of them went on to be Cher’s music producer, another one went on to be a very well-known TV broadcaster.

‘People from my background wrote books, wrote theatre plays and did really well.

‘If you want to do that today you need a double-barrelled name, you need to have gone to a private or a public school or your mum needs to know someone, or your dad needs to know someone, or you need to have a connection at the BBC.’

She added: ‘Levelling up isn’t about regional growth figures, it’s not about connectivity, it’s about none of that, it’s about people.

‘The people it’s about the most are people who come from a background like mine who want to be the next Grand Slam champion but can’t afford the private tennis lessons; who want to be the next Daisy Edgar-Jones but their mum or dad aren’t head of entertainment at Sky; or they want to be Benedict Cumberbatch but they don’t go to private school.

‘I want to go back to those kids and find them a pathway into the industry.’

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