The warning came as Priti Patel, the home secretary, gave the clearest indication yet that ministers are considering sweeping changes to how the BBC is run, calling next year’s review of the BBC charter “a very, very significant moment” for its governance structures.
With Patel not ruling out the idea of imposing a board, some opposition MPs and shadow ministers have become increasingly alarmed.
“I’ve definitely noticed a change in the language over the government response,” one shadow minister told the Guardian. “It’s no longer so measured, it’s like they’re feeling the influence of the anti-BBC headbangers.
“For some of the 2017 and 2019 intake, all this stuff about a ‘woke bias’ in the BBC is an article of faith. It’s a bit like how some Tories talked about the EU 10 or 15 years ago. It’s like they’ve sensed an opportunity.”
A Labour backbencher with an interest in media policy said there was a:
“Taliban faction among the Tories who want to use this as an opportunity to destroy the BBC”.
The MP said: “I do fear there is an appetite among some people in government to use this to effectively emasculate the BBC, to weaken it so much that it’s long-term future is seriously jeopardised.
Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, said that while it was correct for the BBC to apologise, “this must not be used as a reason for the government to try and further undermine the BBC’s status as a strong, impartial public sector broadcaster”.
Any revamped editorial board “must be free from government interference”, he added.