The outgoing BBC Director-General has reportedly claimed to be “disturbed” by the high number of Oxbridge graduates at the organisation.
Mark Thompson is said to have made the claims during a private meeting with an MP and BBC executives.
According to Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, Thompson, who attended Merton College, had discussed the academic background of the BBC’s staff as part of a review of diversity at the corporation.
He said that the organisation was determined to ensure that a wider range of applicants were taken people from diverse backgrounds, but I said they should be looking at getting the best talent no mat- ter where it comes from. The BBC should be hiring on merit, not dis- criminating against success.”
Dorries, MP for Mid-Bedfordshire, herself recently made headlines by describing David Cameron and George Osborne as “two posh boys who don’t know the price of milk”.
But a BBC spokesperson said that they have no quotas for “recruiting from different backgrounds in society” and had no plans to introduce them.
He added: “It is not true to say that we have any plans to change our recruitment policy – which is to attract the very best talent on the basis of merit alone.
“But we also want candidates with outstanding talent who may not have chosen to go down a traditional higher education route. Our training and apprenticeship schemes are designed to help remove barriers to entry to the broadcasting industry. “The British public expect the best from the BBC and we want to access the best talent from wherever it comes.” They added that they run a BBC Young Ambassador scheme aimed at 16 to 18 year olds with few qualifications or work experience.
Robert Picard, Director of Research at the Reuters Institute of Journalism, a research centre based at the University’s Department of Politics and International Relations, said: “The BBC strives to hire the best and brightest.
“It is comfortable selecting Oxbridge graduates because many of those selecting new personnel are Oxbridge graduates themselves and understand the educational and social backgrounds and experiences of these candidates.
“This makes hiring equally bright young people with different back- grounds less likely and the BBC workforce less representative of British society as a whole. As a consequence, the BBC thus tends to be a conservative social force and the workforce tends to be more politically liberal or progressive than the population as a whole.”
Matt Stokes, President of the Oxford Media Society, said: “It’s important to remember that it was a private meeting and what Mark Thompson supposedly said is coming through the mouth of Nadine Dorries, who’s a controversial MP to say the least.
“Having said that, it’s undeniable that the BBC has a reputation among the public of being an insular collective of Oxbridge-educated white men.
“At the end of the day, the BBC faces a challenging few years ahead and it’s important that they take the best people for the jobs. But there’s no reason why that should mean Oxbridge.
“While we spend our time writing essays, others might be making their own films or radio shows – something which I’m sure the BBC would appreciate hugely.”
He added: “Last week we welcomed Pat Younge to the Society, one of the highest-ranking black people at the BBC, and who studied Mineral Exploitation at Cardiff. He now has 3,000 people working for him at BBC Vision, so it’s important not to exaggerate about Oxbridge dominance.”
Zoe Wanamaker, the star of the popular BBC comedy My Family, recently revealed that the show was being axed.