Etched in stone high on the front wall of BBC Broadcasting House is the BBC‘s motto, adopted in 1927 to represent the purpose and values of the corporation:
Nation Shall Speak Peace Unto Nation
Based on biblical scripture, this motto inspired the first thing you see when you walk in the front door of the Art Deco foyer, a huge gilded inscription which reads:
This temple of the arts and muses is dedicated to Almighty God by the first Governors in the year of our Lord 1931, John Reith being Director-General. And they pray that good seed sown may bring forth good harvest, and that all things foul or hostile to peace may be banished thence, and that the people inclining their ear to whatsoever things are lovely and honest, whatsoever things are of good report, may tread the path of virtue and wisdom.
How could a temple dedicated with a prayer to Almighty God not be founded on deeply held religious and philosophical beliefs?
How could a motto, placed high on the front of the building, that nation shall speak peace unto nation, not be interpreted as meaning the BBC has the higher purpose of promoting cultural interchange and social cohesion?
How could anybody entering the hallowed portals of that building ever possibly claim they were not aware they were entering a temple dedicated to that higher purpose?
How could any BBC employee who claimed they either weren’t aware of, or didn’t believe in, that higher purpose not be either a liar or a hypocrite?
And yet, incredible as it may seem, that’s exactly what the BBC spent licence payer’s money proving in the Court of Appeal last summer in the case of Maistry v BBC , when Lord Justice Underhill ruled that it was “unquestionably right” and “ a question of fact” that BBC employees were not aware that any of their colleagues actually believed in BBC values!
How could that happen? How could an institution founded on such deeply held religious and philosophical beliefs end up spending the public’s hard-earned cash supporting those who don’t believe in its fundamental founding principles and persecuting those that do?
The people who wrote and carved those inscriptions as prayers to “Almighty God” must be turning in their graves.
With their religious and philosophical beliefs carved on the front of the building and in the entrance hall for all the world to see, they would have thought that any employee who claimed they weren’t aware of them was either blind or insane.
And that any legal system that judged that absence of awareness to be “unquestionably right” and “ a question of fact” was so broken and corrupt it was in urgent need of fixing.
And if the day ever came when BBC Governors had become so decadent and perverted that they employed people who didn’t believe in the BBC‘s higher purpose and sacked those that did, they’d be the first to be calling for their heads.
But you can see how the liars and hypocrites managed to pull it off. It’s the old spin doctor’s trick of gradually twisting the meaning of things until they end up meaning the exact opposite of what they originally meant
First they turned religion from a source if love, joy and peace into a terrorist threat.
Then they come over all embarrassed about the “august”, “archaic” and “outmoded” religious inscriptions on their building.
Then they get English Heritage to restore them as ancient relics of a bygone age.
Then they can ignore them and replace them with a shiny new building and shiny new set of “mission statements” written in corporate doublespeak which actually mean sweet FA.
Interestingly, what the BBC doesn’t come over all embarrassed about is the carving of a man and a naked boy above the front door of Broadcasting House.
Carved by leading 20th Century artist, Eric Gill, whose own sexual predilections included having sex with two of his daughters and the family dog!
Despite repeated pleadings from survivors in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, the BBC has no plans to remove or replace it.
But, whatever anybody may think about art, paedophilia or religion, the plain and simple truth is that Broadcasting House is literally a “temple” “dedicated” to “Almighty God” and, in the words of Robert Seatter, Head of BBC History:
“For many people, Broadcasting House is the BBC.”
So when any BBC employee claims they are either unaware of or don’t believe in the principles carved on the walls of their own building it’s heresy sacrilege and hypocrisy on a stick.
The last time I looked in a dictionary, hypocrisy still meant “the claim or pretence of holding beliefs, feelings, standards, qualities, opinions, behaviours, virtues, motivations, or other characteristics that one does not in actual fact hold”.
So when Lord Justice Underhill ruled, in paragraph 13 of his judgement, that BBC values “might indeed be no more than their employer’s mission statement about the values that they were expected to observe at work”, what he was essentially saying is that the BBC are hypocrites.
How much longer will licence payers keep supporting an organisation that spends their hard-earned money proving its own hypocrisy in court? Only as long as the licence-payers don’t know about it.
The shiny new BBC Governors in their shiny new building may think they’ve won a victory with their shiny new mission statements, when in fact they’ve just shot themselves in the foot.