Star comment: BBC needs overhaul from the top

Crisis . . . Shambles . . . Meltdown . . . Disgrace. Frankly, you can take your pick of inflammatory phrases to sum up the sorry predicament of the BBC today.

George Entwistle

The grand old lady of British broadcasting has long been part of our national fabric, revered around the world as a trustworthy purveyor of quality programming.

But right at this moment, it is in a state of complete disarray and, as David Cameron rightly points out, needs to get its house in order rapidly if it is to chart a course for true redemption.

We are told that director general George Entwistle, who had only been in post since September, did the ‘honourable thing’ by stepping down.

Perhaps he will now take the equally honourable step of handing back half of his £450,000 pay-off, since this licence payers’ money is twice the contractually required minimum.

At a time when the BBC is cutting back its programming budget, impacting on its grass-roots services in Shropshire and claiming it cannot compete with its commercial rivals, this is an unthinkably inappropriate display of double standards.

You have to sympathise with the new acting BBC director general, Tim Davie, who has inherited what must be the most impossible job in the British media.

He is faced with the prospect of brushing away both executive tumbleweed and flak from a dissatisfied public, at the same time as calmly, quietly, sitting down and working out what to do next.

Only a thorough, radical, structural overhaul will restore public faith in the corporation.

And it is clear after the Newsnight scandal, which presenter Jeremy Paxman claims was brought about by ‘cowards and incompetents’, that this overhaul needs to start at the very top.

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Comments for: "Star comment: BBC needs overhaul from the top"

James

'Crisis . . . Shambles . . . Meltdown . . . Disgrace'

Strangely enough, I'm struggling to recall words like this on this site when News International was found to have been hacking the phones of murder victims, war heroes and disaster survivors. In fact, I have the uneasy feeling that phrases like 'over-reaction' and 'sense of proportion' were in common currency. So, in its role as as Shropshire's moral compass, perhaps the Star should do something about its own double standards before it lays into other organisations.

That's not to say the BBC has covered itself in glory these last few weeks. It patently hasn't - and does indeed have some soul-searching to do. But I'd still ask this - how many other news organisations would have documented their own failings as thoroughly as the BBC has been doing? None, that's how many.

The latest scandal also tells you plenty about Twitter and is fellow social networks - but we don't seem to be hearing much about that either.

Devilschair

All over managed bureaucracies suffer from this, to paraphrase Churchill

....never has so many people wasted so much money and shown so few real results except proving that they followed due course.

Romes burning and these people are putting a symphony together. Its endemic in the UK now. Cheaply made but costly middle management is a tax on work going out of the door.

Claire Boldersons blog has written a great summary - and if you work in a large organisation - do read this and insert your organisations in place of the BBC in this http://clairebolderson.com/2012/11/renewing-the-bbc/

Peter

I cannot understand why the BBC's Director General felt the need to resign in this case. After all, Newsnight simply reported that there were allegations of abuse being made about the children's home in Wales, and that internet sources had unwisely chosen to offer names of those allegedly involved - the BBC named no-one...

No matter how ill-founded or scurrilous those allegation are, the fact that they had been put on the interent was true, and other news sources, included ITV and various newspapers, tabloid and otherwise, were also reporting that names had been put on the Web. Are the BBC now to be held responsible for the irresponsible behaviour of others in cyberspace? Do we see editors of national newspapers falling on their swords? I don't believe so.

I have serious doubts that any of the allegations circulating are true, but I had certainly seen names mentioned some time before Newnight reported the story - so why single out the BBC for criticism? It's commendable that they set themselves significantly higher standards than our muck-raking newspapers, but they really can't win. Don't forget they were criticised for suppressing a report on the Savile scandal - now they're being castigated for actually showing a report about similar issues!

Gary

Peter, you are so right. George E should be leading, investigating and reforming as and if required thus earning his £0.5M payoff. I would suggest the only real disgrace the BBC Trust is making is the indiscriminate disposal of our licence fee. Kneejerk reactions made at our expense.

Bill

The right wing of UK politics (including the Shropshire Star) sees the BBC as 'lefty'.

The left wing sees it as 'establishment'

It walks a political tightrope in order to maintain its reputation as THE broadcaster of record, integrity and probity.

So when the slightest thing goes wrong everybody weighs in, slinging around effusive hyperbole and invented failings.

The issues about two broadcasts being either 'pulled' or made in error is serious for the Corporation - but we must remember what both these were about - the appalling abuse of children and young people.

If we let our thoughts be led by the BBC's internal issues rather than the tragic circumstances both these programmes addressed we do the victims an unacceptable disservice.

James

Some good points as usual Peter.

It's been hard to follow all this stuff from abroad, but I'd like to take a couple of points.

'It's commendable that they set themselves significantly higher standards than our muck-raking newspapers..'

Not commendable, but necessary. The BBC would (rightly) lose all legitimacy if its standards were those of the Mail or the Sun. It's right to demand that it maintains the standards it's always had.

'Are the BBC now to be held responsible for the irresponsible behaviour of others in cyberspace?'

No, but what this latest BBC report effectively did was legitimise the whispers on Twitter and other sites. These are sites which abide by rules which are arbitrary at best - if they're rules at all. The BBC isn't quite in a position to make the point you're making because in lots of other contexts it relies on Twitter to enhance its stories. This point was made by Lyce Doucet(sp?), a reporter I hugely respect btw, on a Weekend World programme recently.

You're right, of course, to point out that the BBC didn't name anyone in its report - a courtesy the tabloids didn't afford Robert Murat or Chris Jefferies when they started ruining their lives - but I'm not convinced the point is all that important.

The BBC must have known what the effect its report would be. If they didn't know, they were incompetent.

'Don't forget they were criticised for suppressing a report on the Savile scandal'

I think the suppressed Newsnight report on Savile is a red herring to the larger issue, which is that young visitors to BBC premises were, allegedly, put in a position where they were vulnerable to a sexual predator - over a period of decades. As an institution, just like the NHS and those girls' approved schools, the BBC appears to have failed in its duty of care. The argument I've heard elsewhere - that those were 'different times' - simply astounds me.

But if we want to discuss BBC journalism in regard to Savile, we might ask why it broadcast a gushing tribute programme after his death - when it must surely have been aware of some of the allegations.

I'm as much of a believer in what the BBC stands for as anyone. That's precisely why I think it does need to look closely at itself right now.

Bill

I don't think the so-called 'excuse' of 'different times' implies that this sort of behaviour was either condoned or that a blind eye was turned to it.

Quite simply, the concept that a celebrity individual might constantly abuse these youngsters' adulation in a disgusting and immoral way never crossed anybody's minds.

There have always been strong chaperoning rules for young performers in entertainment, but not for the fans and the audience. I seem to recall it was a matter of pride for under-age individuals to gain admission to clubs, concerts and TV pop shows.

It is only in the last 20-25 years that the public in general has really come to understand that systematic abuse by people in positions of power and influence could and did occur. We have been steadily discovering that everybody from priests to pop idols could have serious moral failings.

James

'Quite simply, the concept that a celebrity individual might constantly abuse these youngsters' adulation in a disgusting and immoral way never crossed anybody's minds.'

I see what you're saying, but I wonder if it totally stands up in the Savile case. People at the BBC have come out since and basically said they knew what was going on, some have practically said they caught him in the act on occasions. The same at Stoke Mandeville and other hospitals, where nurses apparently told kids to pretend to be asleep when one of Savile's visits was due. Failure in the duty to protect, I'm afraid.

The truth of the matter is more that power, celebrity and (apparent) charity was seen to be unchallengeable, even in the face of actual evidence.

It's interesting that you say 'only in the last 20-25 years...'

Even if we say 20, that would mean that Savile could have been investigated in the 90s, held accountable while he was still alive in other words. If people at the BBC and in other institutions had had the bottle to do something, that is.

Ken Adams

None of which will address the institutional bias within the BBC which led to not only the biased journalism with respect to a Tory peer but the lack of oversight all the way up the chain of command at the BBC and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism which worked with the BBC to produce this Newsnight programme.