NUJ reaction to BBC re-hiring Bashir Review

  • 14 Jun 2021

The BBC review fails to fully assuage concerns over cappuccino culture, dodgy recruitment practices and judgement of senior managers.

Following publication of the BBC's review into the re-hiring of Martin Bashir as Religious Affairs Correspondent in 2016, the NUJ's concerns over flawed recruitment practices remain.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"It is hard to agree with the key finding of this report, that the recruitment process was one designed to find the right person for the role. The 'shortcomings' identified rather strike me as evidence of a process fundamentally lacking in integrity.

"The NUJ was regularly demanding an end to so-called cappuccino interviews and stitched-up recruitment processes back in 2014 and 2015, ahead of Martin Bashir's re-hiring in 2016. Our objections to his and many other appointments – made whilst the BBC was making sweeping cuts and spending vast sums on needless redundancies – were brushed aside and dodgy recruitment practices denied. Decisions on hiring Bashir were made over cosy coffees. Other external applicants were clearly merely along for the ride, and indeed the decision to interview Bashir was made before the job advert was even published.

"The eight external candidates deemed suitable and passed to BBC News from the 18 applicants who threw their hat into the ring were not invited for coffee nor even given the chance to interview. The eventual 'interview' was a piece of performance, with the only other candidate allowed a previously unsuccessful internal applicant, who was advised that they shouldn't expect to get it because a clear favourite was in the running, and unsurprisingly left with the impression the outcome was a done deal.

"Question marks over the BBC's lack of judgement in rehiring Bashir in 2016 are not expunged with this report. How is it plausible that senior BBC executives – steeped in news on a daily basis, responsible for the BBC's reputation – didn't consider Bashir's recent career woes and questionable behaviour in the States worthy of pause for thought.

Why is there no reference in this review to the pretty remarkable step Peter Horrocks, then BBC Head of Current Affairs, took in 2000 to write to ITV and complain in unvarnished terms about Bashir's unethical treatment of BBC journalists, citing attempts to discredit them and sabotage their Panorama investigation into Harold Shipman. The allegations in that letter are shocking stuff, about behaviour clearly known to many back in 2000. Yet on rehiring him in 2016 the BBC in its own press release said Bashir's 'track record in enterprising journalism is well known and respected.'

"It's disappointing that an important opportunity to address this damaging issue fails to hit the mark."

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