Steve Hewlett Memorial Lecture

John Ryley on fearless journalism

John Ryley gestures while holding a microphone

The recently departed Head of Sky News was in combative mode as he outlined three recommendations to improve British broadcast journalism.

First, John Ryley said: “Broadcasters should start reporting on the Royal Family with the same rigour as they treat every [other] story on the news agenda.… They are too supine, too incurious, too compliant. 

BBC's Chief International Correspondent Lyse Doucet on 'news avoidance' and the future of broadcast news

BBC Chief International Correspondent Lyse Doucet argued that broadcast news was facing a series of existential threats.

“Our habit of sitting on the sofa to see what’s on the telly is changing fast,” she said. “Our future is, literally, in our hands, in those phones or other devices that so many of us are using to access news – or not – especially a younger generation,” who, she said were turning to TikTok and YouTube.

BBC News Russia Editor Steve Rosenberg's Steve Hewlett Memorial Lecture: Risk, rigour and Russia

BBC News Russia editor Steve Rosenberg spoke via a sometimes erratic video link from Moscow, posing the question: “In today’s Russia, does a foreign correspondent still have the opportunity to do journalism?

Rosenberg joined the BBC’s Moscow Bureau as a producer in 1997 “at a time when Russia and the West were still partners – it’s very different now… in recent months, journalists from ‘unfriendly’ countries [largely the UK and the West] have been barred from major events such as the Victory Day Parade on Red Square.”

The BBC: Destroy at your peril: Clive Myrie's Steve Hewlett Memorial Lecture

BBC journalist, Mastermind presenter and opera lover Clive Myrie didn’t pull any punches as he defended his employer in this year’s Steve Hewlett Memorial Lecture, entitled “The BBC: Destroy at your peril”.

Myrie, who joined the BBC in 1987 as a trainee local radio reporter, laid out his reasons why the licence fee was a better way of funding the corporation than subscription. He stressed the importance of a trusted, impartial news service and the BBC’s universality at a time when notions of truth have become subjective and impartiality “a false God”.

The bedrock of the BBC: Peter Taylor's Steve Hewlett Memorial Lecture

In his stirring Steve Hewlett Memorial Lecture, “Integrity in television: 50 years through the lens”, award-winning journalist Peter Taylor offered a powerful defence of the BBC.

Before he began, Taylor paid tribute to Hewlett, a “former colleague and friend, who produced two of the films of which I am most proud: The Maze: Enemies Within and Remember Bloody Sunday. He was great to work with. Tough minded, sharp and meticulous.”

Mark Thompson's Steve Hewlett Memorial Lecture speech

Check against delivery.

My subject this evening is sovereignty – though there won’t be much about Brexit tonight – and sadly no insights at all about today’s riveting developments.

The questions I plan to raise don’t depend on whether Brexit goes ahead. They’ll matter whether we stick with Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, or head down the pub with Boris and Nigel for a chorus of Roll Out the Barrel. Or even if it turns out we’ve been characters in a play by Samuel Beckett all along – Waiting for Brexit – and the whole point was that nothing was going to happen.

Mark Thompson warns government policies endanger the BBC at the Steve Hewlett Memorial Lecture

Mark Thompson, President and CEO of The New York Times Company (Credit: Paul Hampartsoumian)

Giving the third Steve Hewlett Memorial Lecture at London’s Westminster University, he accused policy makers of largely concentrating “on tightening the funding pressure and other constraints on the BBC further” including “the disastrous withdrawal of funding free licence fees for the over 75’s” agreed in the 2016 Charter now coming into full effect.  

Charlotte Moore: "We risk seeing fewer and fewer distinctively British stories"

Three Girls, written by Nicole Taylor (Credit: BBC)

Further evidence that the BBC is striking a more strident tone as it calls for greater resources in the streaming era was provided by the corporation’s director of content, Charlotte Moore, in her recent Steve Hewlett Memorial Lecture.

In a wide-ranging and, at times, feisty speech aimed primarily at policy­makers and politicians, Moore argued that trusted, authentic British storytellers in the tradition of Hewlett risked being undermined unless the BBC was properly funded.