Sir Roger Carr, chairman of Europe’s biggest arms dealer, BAE Systems, is due to start work as vice-chairman of the BBC Trust on 1 May. But a campaign has been launched to get him sacked because of fears that he could influence BBC coverage of the arms trade.
A petition demanding his dismissal has been signed by more than 5,500 people, and is due to be handed in to BBC Broadcasting House in London on 30 April. “Arms industry executives have no place in public service broadcasting,” it says.
BAE Systems has sold weapons to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which have all been criticised for poor records on human rights. Saudi Arabia has reportedly used the company’s Eurofighters in recent attacks on Yemen.
“BAE Systems has made its money through arming dictatorships and human rights abusers around the world,” said Andrew Smith from Campaign Against Arms Trade, which is organising the petition.
"Carr is the public face of the company and is the last person who should be given the legitimacy of a role at the heart of public broadcasting. Not only does his appointment send out a terrible message, it also raises serious concerns about how the appointment might impact on the BBC's coverage of the arms trade.”
As chairman of BAE Systems he earns £650,000 a year. He has previously chaired Thames Water, Cadbury and Centrica, and been deputy chairman of the Bank of England as well as a past president of the Confederation of British Industry.
The BBC Trust’s job is ensure that the BBC delivers its mission to “to inform, educate and entertain.” It sets strategic objectives and is “the guardian of licence fee revenue and of the public interest in the BBC.”
“Trustees have no influence over the editorial decisions taken at the BBC”, said a spokeswoman for the trust. “All decisions about editorial output are taken by the BBC Executive.”
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport pointed out that candidates for the BBC Trust were asked to flag any conflicts of interest. “Where raised, these are discussed with the selection panel,” said a department spokesman. “There were no concerns in relation to Roger Carr."
A spokeswoman for BAE Systems described the company as world class. “We are proud of the vital role we play in helping our customers safeguard national security,” she said.
“We operate to high standards of ethical business conduct as a responsible and trusted partner to legitimate governments following all applicable international defence export regulations.”