Freedom of speech is seriously under threat at the BBC


Freedom of speech is ‘seriously under threat’ at the BBC, one of its veteran broadcasters has warned.

Michael Buerk, who has presented Radio 4’s The Moral Maze programme for more than 30 years, claimed the Corporation was falling victim to ‘woke’ ideology.

Writing for the Radio Times, the former newsreader said that Radio 4’s ‘hopeless yearning to connect with yoof’ and ‘increasingly woke’ editorial choices put it at odds with its Middle England listeners.

Mr Buerk, who presents the live discussion show about ethical issues, blamed social media sites such as Twitter for poisoning public debate and encouraging people to regard those with opposing views as evil.

The 75-year-old praised the BBC for sticking with The Moral Maze but said he is concerned about ‘how long that will last’ and admitted that the programme is a ‘bit less abrasive’ than it used to be.


‘In the wider world – and, it has to be said, in some parts of the BBC – more and more is being put off limits, things that cannot possibly be said, new orthodoxies that are beyond challenge,’ he wrote.

‘I do think freedom of speech is seriously under threat.’

Mr Buerk continued: ‘We used to pride ourselves it was a programme on which ”the unsayable gets said”. There were no holds barred, the audience were grown-ups and didn’t need protecting from views they might not like.

‘The arguments weren’t curated or choreographed, and they didn’t need censoring because the whole point of the programme was to test them to destruction.

‘It survives, even prospers in a modest way, despite the temper of the times.

‘I won’t say we don’t feel it on The Moral Maze… Maybe we’re a bit less abrasive than we used to be. To their credit, Radio 4 bigwigs have largely kept their nerve. I honour them for it, but sometimes worry about how long that will last.

‘Half the audience may feel like drowning themselves in their cornflakes after a typical Today programme, but touch one hair of Nick Robinson’s head (yes, all right, but you know what I mean) and the world would fall in.’

Mr Buerk has spent more than five decades at the BBC. He said there was ‘nervousness’ among veteran broadcasters after Sky News anchor Adam Boulton announced he was quitting the station because he was ‘past his sell-by date’.

‘Time was, he’d have gone on growing into his 80s. But times change, the boxes he ticked so well are now labelled ”privilege”, and the old guard is being replaced by one that is conspicuously, purposefully, less uniform,’ he said.

The Moral Maze, which first broadcast in 1990, has a format that involves four panellists – famously historian David Starkey – discussing a topical issue while interrogating experts on the subject matter.

The programme returned to Radio 4 this week after the previous series tackled issues including taxation and swearing.

A BBC spokesman told MailOnline: ‘Many people are passionate about Radio 4, including Michael, and we’re proud of the huge range of quality programming which is as rigorous and curious as it has ever been that caters for and represents a wider range of listeners.’

Source: Daily Mail