Senior BBC management has been accused of fostering a “toxic culture” from the “DG-down” in a letter criticizing the closure of its 99-year-old choir.
The co-directors of BBC Singers, the BBC choir that’s facing the axe, made the claim in a letter to BBC Chair Richard Sharp.
The decision to close the near-century-old choir has been met with major opposition and is one of several crises currently engulfing the BBC. The BBC says it is in consultation with the Musician’s Union over the plan as an online petition criticizing it tops 100,000 signatures and another signed by 700 composers was sent to BBC Director General Tim Davie.
Among the damning claims levelled by BBC Singers Acting Co-Directors Jonathan Manners and Rob Johnston is that a “recurring narrative of toxic culture now exists at the BBC, reflected in the working environment from the Director General downwards.”
They also claimed: “A culture of fear and paranoia has been created as seismic decisions on the corporation’s future are taken at speed without any proper analysis or meaningful consultation.”
The letter, first published by classic music news site Slipped Disc, claims only one key BBC executive had heard the BBC Singers perform before the decision to axe the choir was announced last week.
The closure will result in the loss of 20 posts and is part of a wider drive to reduce the BBC’s spend on its salaried orchestra positions by 20%. The BBC said the “difficult decision” was made so it could invest more in choral groups and launch a development program for new talent.
Among several complaints about the strategy behind and implementation of the closure, the authors allege to have experienced “aggressive and confrontational dialogue” from BBC execs.
They claim BBC Pop Music Controller Lorna Clarke was dismissive of questions during a meeting with BBC Singers last week, and that BBC Head of Orchestras and Choirs Simon Webb “wept in the room” once she had left.
The letter also criticised a “stark contrast” between internal and external comms around the closure, calling a press release “a crass embarrassment and neglectful of the facts.”
“The events of the past months have shocked us all, and we believe they go against the BBC’s core values,” the letter concluded. “We both have no confidence in the senior management of the BBC, and feel that as Chair of the corporation you need to take full responsibility for the crisis we are now in.”
The letter caps off a miserable few days for the BBC. The high-profile Gary Lineker scandal has called into question how senior management interpret impartiality, while Question Time host Fiona Bruce was forced to step down from her role with a women’s violence charity after being criticized for defending accusations made against Boris Johnson’s father.
Meanwhile, Sharp remains in the firing line over the facilitation of a loan for former Prime Minister Johnson, and BBC News staff will strike tomorrow over cuts.
The BBC hadn’t provided a response to the letter at press time but a spokesman told The Daily Telegraph: “We know this is a hugely difficult time for everyone impacted by these proposed changes.
“Throughout the process our staff have acted with integrity and sought to engage with people meaningfully, and whilst some may disagree with the tough decisions we’ve had to make in what are financially challenging times, we have developed the classical strategy carefully and diligently.
“We’ll continue to do all we can to support those affected by these changes and to engage with the industry, and we are in consultation with the Musicians Union.”