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Sunday, 14 June 2020

BBC Accused of Hypocrisy Over Reith Art Pieces

The BBC has been accused of hypocrisy after refusing to remove works of art depicting its Nazi-sympathising first Director General, whilst at the same time removing perceived racist content from the BBC iPlayer.

Lord John Reith was the Director General of the BBC from 1927 to 1938. In a 2006 interview his daughter, Marista Leishman, confirmed that her father revered Hitler and respected Mussolini.

In 1922 Reith successfully applied for the position of General Manager at the as-yet unformed British Broadcasting Company. A former Army officer, he had no previous broadcasting experience, but quickly rose through the ranks to lead the organisation.

A bronze bust of Reith was cast by Kathleen Scott, wife of explorer Robert Falcon Scott, in 1929. It is on display in Old Broadcasting House, London.

An oil painting of Reith was commissioned by the BBC Board of Governors to celebrate his tenth year of service. The original, by renowned portrait artist Sir Oswald Birley, hangs over the fireplace in the Council Chamber in Old Broadcasting House. A replica is on display in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.

In 1933, during Hitler's rise to power, Reith wrote: "I am certain that the Nazis will clean things up and put Germany on the way to being a real power in Europe again... They are being ruthless and most determined".

After the July 1934 Night of the Long Knives, in which the Nazis ruthlessly exterminated their internal dissidents, Reith wrote: "I really admire the way Hitler has cleaned up what looked like an incipient revolt. I really admire the drastic actions taken, which were obviously badly needed."

Last week, in the wake of racial tension spurred by the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, the BBC started to remove content perceived as racist from its iPlayer archive. It has refused, however, to remove from display the painting and bust of Nazi sympathiser Lord Reith.

First to be expunged from the iPlayer was Matt Lucas' and David Walliams' BAFTA award winning comedy Little Britain.

The show featured an overweight black female character called Desiree DeVere who was portrayed by Walliams in a heavily padded costume. It also featured a character called Maggie Blackmore, again portrayed by Walliams, who projectile vomited every time she came across a situation involving anyone who was non-white or non-heterosexual.

The BBC also removed an episode of 1970's comedy Fawlty Towers from the iPlayer. In the episode in question the show's main character, hotellier Basil Fawlty, who is portrayed by John Cleese, makes several references to the Second World War, much to the discomfort of a group of German guests.

In addition to feigning a very poor German accent, Fawlty goose-steps through the hotel and does an impression of Hitler. Despite being made more than 40 years ago Fawlty Towers, winner of the 1976 BAFTA for best situational comedy, remains very popular and has a cult following.

Cleese took to Twitter to criticise the BBC's censorship attempt.

"The BBC is now run by a mixture of marketing people and petty bureaucrats," he tweeted.

"It used to have a large sprinkling of people who'd actually made programmes.

"Not any more.

"So BBC decisions are made by persons whose main concern is not losing their jobs.

"That's why they're so cowardly and gutless and contemptible."

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said: "The BBC have been the cheerleaders in this campaign to pull down statues and even taken down programmes from their streaming services.

"People in glass houses though should not throw stones and the BBC is particularly vulnerable given that its founding Director General was a well known Nazi sympathiser who revered Adolf Hitler.

"When will the BBC take down the portrait and bust of Lord Reith and rename the lectures given each year in his honour?

"This highlights how ludicrous the witch-hunt against British history is and how hypocritical the BBC has been."

A BBC spokesman said: "As founding Director General, Lord Reith's construction of the BBC was as a public service broadcaster independent of political intervention and removed from party politics.

"His actions at the time and subsequent legacy are in direct opposition to the German radio propaganda operation created under the Nazi regime. It is also well documented that Lord Reith played a significant role in the Second World War effort, including time in the Royal Navy and in organising the D-Day landings."

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