BBC chief defends hiring of Jess Brammar after allegations of interference

It was claimed board member Sir Robbie Gibb tried to block her hiring on political grounds.
It was claimed board member Sir Robbie Gibb tried to block her hiring on political grounds.

BBC news chief Fran Unsworth has defended the appointment of Jess Brammar as head of the corporation’s news channels, following allegations of political interference.

Labour previously called for Theresa May’s former communications director Sir Robbie Gibb to be sacked from the board of the BBC after claims he tried to block her hiring on political grounds.

Brammar, former editor-in-chief of HuffPost UK and acting editor of Newsnight, will take up the role of the BBC’s executive news editor of news channels, overseeing the BBC’s two 24-hour news channels – BBC World News and the BBC News Channel.

It comes after her impartiality was questioned after old tweets emerged in which she was critical of Brexit and the Prime Minister.

The Financial Times reported that Sir Robbie, who became a non-executive director at the corporation in May, attempted to stop Brammar from being appointed because he felt it would damage the Government’s trust in the broadcaster.

In an email to BBC staff seen by the PA news agency, director of news Unsworth appeared to address the questions that had been raised about Brammar, writing: “In view of recent public speculation about BBC News appointments, there are a couple of points I want to make.

“BBC News has to be impartial and independent. BBC journalists are hired from a variety of different backgrounds, but while working at the BBC, they leave any personal opinions at the door.

“Any individual should be judged on how they do their job at the BBC, not on what they have done in different organisations with very different objectives.

“It is extremely disappointing that anyone should receive public or personal criticism – or online abuse – simply for applying for a job at the BBC.”

After her appointment was confirmed, Brammar wrote on Twitter: “Some personal news (a divisive phrase, I know!) – couldn’t be more thrilled to be joining such an incredibly talented team, on and off air.

“Very much looking forward to cracking on with the job.”

Paul Danahar, the BBC Americas bureau chief in Washington DC, has been appointed as executive news editor of the world story team.

The BBC said both appointments were made through “fair and open competition”.

Brammar will take up her role this month and while Danahar will start his in January.