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BBC says it won’t allow statue of George Orwell at its entrance

The microphone that newsreader Iain Purdon used to deliver the final BBC World Service news bulletin from BBC Bush House is seen in central London July 12, 2012. At noon London time Britain slipped silently into a new era of radio history.

SUZANNE PLUNKETT/REUTERS

To the surprise of right-wing commentators, it is possible to be too lefty for the BBC.

The British public broadcaster, which is often criticized by conservatives for its political slant, will not allow a statue of George Orwell to grace the entrance of its new headquarters, reportedly because the idea is too partisan.

Orwell, who worked briefly at the BBC, earned international renown through his writing, aiming his pen at imperialism, unbridled capitalism, the Spanish civil war, revolutionary excess and totalitarianism. In 2008 he was named the second-best British writer since the war, trailing only Philip Larkin in a list compiled by the Times of London.

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But in spite of his fame -- and a range of targets that has seen him claimed by both the right and the left -- outgoing BBC Director-General Mark Thompson was apparently quick to dismiss the idea of Orwell's statue at the broadcaster's entrance.

"I met Mark Thompson at a BBC reception and mentioned the project," Baroness Joan Bakewell, a supporter of the George Orwell Memorial Trust, told the Daily Telegraph. "He said, 'Oh no, Joan, we can't possibly. It's far too left-wing an idea'."

Mr. Thompson is away and has not commented. The broadcaster insists that the spot being proposed is already being used and that another place, off BBC property, can surely be found.

The compromise amused some, who saw it as a face-saving hypocrisy. But others suggested the decision was inadvertently correct.

"A doughty warrior in the cause of liberty, free thought and political prose as clear as a glass pane, Orwell deserves his statue all right -- but ... today's BBC - aka the Ministry of Truth -- might not be the best place for it after all," Nigel Jones wrote at the Daily Mail.

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