Below are extracts from the blog of the New Frontiers Foundation, a thinktank directed at the time by Dominic Cummings, now a senior aide to Boris Johnson. The posts called for the end of the BBC in its current form and suggested rightwingers should work to undermine its credibility.
6 January 2004
“The usual focus on blaming Howard [Michael Howard, then Tory leader] and his staff for current problems is misguided. There has been an intellectual and professional void in the Party since 1991 which no group of people could have solved in a year. Until the CP [Conservative party] realises that (a) the BBC is a mortal enemy; (b) the CP’s current problems are the result of a long-term crisis in which its abdication of its historic role in being a national party or nothing is at the core of why it has failed and it cannot revive until it develops an intellectual and political programme for dealing with Europe and our relationship with it; (c) the nature of 21st C threats is such that it either abandons supporting the UN now or does so after a major crisis – until it is capable of engaging in the big political and intellectual questions of the world, then it will continue on its current course. This obviously does not mean saying – ‘leave the UN’ – but involves a different moral description of the UN from now on and a medium-term creation of new institutions.
“The CP also has to face some unpleasant truths about its position relative to the Republicans: the Republicans, very unusually for a party of the Right in the West, is now outperforming the Left not just in terms of intellectual content but also in professional communications and political strategy; this is partly a product of Republicans realising they are in a cultural conflict in which they need to shape the culture actively in their favour over long periods with large efforts; a CP revival will require something similar to the thirty year effort on the American Right that paid off in 2004 – not a ‘new leader’ or ‘better spin doctors’.”
2 June 2004
“MH’s [Michael Howard’s] performance on Today will not have helped. It is a mistake in general for a Conservative leader to appear on the Today programme unless he is announcing a major new positive proposal, especially if it is to answer a series of attacking questions about ‘strategy’. Today exists to try to make him look stupid and create an echo of ‘u-turn’ / ‘gaffe’ / ‘confusion’ stories, as with other major politicians. Effort should be diverted from Today to programmes that affect the public far more. Today itself needs to be audited by a proper media monitoring operation to provide a record of its coverage, assumptions, selection of stories etc – ie. held up to the sort of scrutiny that it thinks it provides for politicians.”
13 July 2004
“The BBC is dominated by a culture that regards differing points of view on issues such as regional assemblies, the EU, business, the role of markets in providing services, Iraq and WMD, as immoral. In their worldview, having certain views = immoral = more or less racist. The privileged closed world of the BBC needs to be turned upside down and its very existence should be the subject of a very intense and well-funded campaign that involves bringing out whistleblowers armed with internal memos and taped conversations of meetings.”
14 July 2004
[Following a complaint about the Today programme’s coverage of Iraq] “Another reason why the Right should be aiming for the end of the BBC in its current form and the legalisation of TV political advertising.”
28 July 2004
“Two Tory ideas: Legal challenge by a third party group to challenge the ban on TV advertising under ECHR Article 10 grounds. The promise of explaining in 30 second spots during Coronation Street why ‘the Government should go on a diet and give you some of your money back / EU transformation / mayors to kick cops out of cars etc’ could unlock large amounts of money. Move by Tory leadership towards executive government (not exclusively from outsiders but a mix of the best Tory MPs and some alpha outsiders). This would inject a level of professionalism and seriousness into the Party that otherwise is impossible to generate internally, and would go down a storm with voters. There will inevitably be great resistance to such things. Without dramatic change, however, the conversations of the last five years will be repeated for another five. (All Tories who have not should read John Hoskyns’ book Just In Time about the late seventies / early eighties.)”
17 September 2004
“There are three structural things that the Right needs to happen in terms of communications… 1) the undermining of the BBC’s credibility; 2) the creation of a Fox News equivalent / talk radio shows / bloggers etc to shift the centre of gravity; 3) the end of the ban on TV political advertising (an enterprising donor with a few hundred thousand pounds would do more to help the Conservative Party by funding a legal challenge of this ban than he ever could by donating direct to the CP). One low cost thing that Right networks could do now is the development of the web networks scrutinising the BBC and providing information to commercial rivals with an interest in undermining the BBC’s credibility. During the election and even more so in a EU referendum, there will be a huge need for the BBC’s reporting of issues to be scrutinised and taken apart minute-to-minute.”
21 September 2004
“The issue here is simple – the BBC repeats a particular left-wing cultural critique of Bush [George W Bush, then US president] that includes factual errors… The Right here is in a poor state, such that the Conservatives have lost coherence on terrorism and Iraq as well as other things (eg. today’s foolish piece by [Stephen] Glover in the Mail, which includes a near-BBC line about Al Qaeda and Iraq). But one thing that can be done between now and the election is fire missile after missile at the BBC every time it engages in this sort of reporting. They can only prosper in the long-term by undermining the BBC’s reputation for impartiality in the way CBS’ reputation is being undermined now, and by changing the law on political advertising. The BBC is a determined propagandist with a coherent ideology. We are paying for it. We should not be. We should be changing the game.”