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  • Euan Healy

Andrew Marr to Leave the BBC. Should It Be Concerned?


Image of BBC Broadcasting House in London.

Andrew Marr has decided that after twenty-one years, he’s finally had enough of the BBC. His departure in the new year will mark the end of an era for what I’ve always found to be the BBC’s most essential (and at times most entertaining) function: political grilling – an activity for which we have relied on the two-part Scottish vintage of Marr and Neil for just about all of our young lives.

Marr’s departure comes sometime after Andrew Neil’s, but their decisions are certainly not independent of one another. Neil made one of his reasons for leaving pretty clear by throwing objectivity out of the window with the creation of GB News, from which he has recently made a public divorce leaving Farage at the helm. Marr left for the same reason: so that he would be able to “get [his] own voice back.” He’s taken a role at LBC and has just joined The New Statesman as Chief Political Commentator and seems to be chuffed about the prospect of working at “the paper of Orwell.” In commenting that he “grew up learning how to think by reading Christopher Hitchens and other NS writers,” he’s made no bones about his desire to join a paper that will allow him to think independently and once again express an opinion, or in his own words, to work with “partners who won’t be leaning on my shoulder as I write.”

Clearly, the need for impartiality at the BBC has been the problem for the two of them but there’s nothing particularly worrying about that; currently, it makes a lot of sense. Andrew Marr has been in the objective seat for a very long time and in the past it’s been an easier place to sit. Twenty odd years of silence in the face of change is a difficult gig and with culture wars, debates around ‘cancel culture’, Boris Johnson, uncovered corruption, and a whole load of other stuff, it’s reasonable for a man in his 60s to opt for change of scene and a reinstated licence to comment.

So, Andrew Marr leaving is nothing to worry about. It isn’t the end of the BBC and it’s not a malicious hit back at a corporation that he now wants to see burned to the ground. Nor has he been kicked out as part of some Government power-grabbing editorial reshuffle, as the Guardian reported was allegedly the case for Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC’s political editor . In fact, when the reported reshuffle was taking place, Marr was actually granted a new contract to continue hosting the Andrew Marr show. It is clear to see that he hasn’t been pushed.

Really, it’s a very organic turnover in a new public era. New audiences have to be met, and new TV licences issued, if the BBC is to stand a chance of expanding and sustaining its viewership. Indeed, the new wave of fresh-faced journalists set to dominate our TV screens for the next 20 years are coming through, as the Marrs and the Neils, once dominant in the journalistic world, decide to call it a day.

What’s important to bear in mind, though, is that, in the case of Andrew Marr, it really isn’t as big a deal as some will make it out to be. It appears to be a very personal and considered career choice, and we should all be glad to wish him well.

Maybe he’s been motivated by culture wars, maybe PM Boris Johnson’s Peppa Pig world has breached the limits of what Marr deems acceptable objectivity, it could even simply be a sign of a career edging closer to the end, and a subsequent desire for one last shot at speaking his mind. I suspect it’s a combination of the three. Clearly, he felt that jumping ship now was the only way to have an opinion and that, currently, not having an opinion wasn’t going to cut it.

I suspect that Andrew Neil, freshly inspired by his first viewing of T2 trainspotting earlier on this year, was walking over to the telly, Braveheart DVD in-hand, and turned to look at Marr and said: Choose going after Boris Johnson, choose bringing Corbyn back up, choose culture wars, choose woke watch, choose slagging off the queen, choose Cummings rules the world, choose Carrie Johnson rules the world, choose nuclear weapons are safe, choose Matt Hancock was setup, choose Scottish, Welsh and Irish independence, choose Geordie independence with Gazza as PM, choose don’t get vaccinated because in five years you’ll wake up with twenty toes, three teeth and a tail, choose an opinion, choose subjectivity.

Very naturally, Marr has decided to do just that.

Source - Flickr (Matt Brown)




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