George Entwistle doesn’t seem to know much.
He doesn’t seem to know what’s going on inside the
BBC, the organization he leads as Director General. Incredibly, he doesn’t seem to know what
potentially controversial programmes the BBC is planning to broadcast, not even
those concerning the continually metastasizing child abuse scandal that has threatened
his tenure since the Jimmy Savile revelations.
He doesn’t seem to know, or perhaps doesn’t care about, what’s being
written about the BBC in the newspapers.
He doesn’t seem to have the first idea how the public relations aspects
of scandal should be handled (surely not for want of professional advice?).
The sad calculation is that what Entwisle doesn’t know
dwarfs what he does know by such a wide margin that it may be even higher than
the odds currently available on him hanging on to his job.
Long an admirer of the BBC, I’ve been sitting on the
fence on the issue of whether the DG should go or stay. I’ve now changed my position. As the stockbrokers say, my assessment has
shifted from neutral to negative. He
My damascene moment came when, earlier this week,
George told an interviewer (one of his own employees) that he hadn’t seen the
Newsnight programme in which allegations of child abuse, at a hostel in North Wales, were made against a Conservative peer, who
wasn’t named on air but who was subsequently identified, evidently in error, as
Having belatedly acquainted himself with the details
of the Newsnight broadcast, Entwisle declared: “We should not have put out a
film that was so fundamentally wrong.
What happened here is completely unacceptable.”
No argument with that, but how did the programme get
through whatever fail-safe process the BBC erected, post-Savile, to protect
itself from any further bloopers. I can
only presume that there was a
fail-safe process. Wouldn’t any sensible
person in his position by now have written a memorandum to the effect that any
plans for a news programme on the subject of child abuse would be subject to
the approval of the DG himself, or his deputy?
It seems that George was out the evening the programme
went on the air. Where was he, trekking
in the Himalayas? Even if he had been, wouldn’t he have
instructed a deputy to act in his stead?
Yes, I know there is supposed to be a divide between
the executive branch and the news division, but in critical matters such as the
Savile affair, the DG is perfectly entitled to impose himself as the
The BBC has been under fire for as long as I can
remember, the critics ranging from the usual whiners with no agenda other than
to attack those public bodies they see as responsible for Britain’s moral
decline and fall, to an organised lobby group of abolitionists implacable in
the belief that ‘Auntie’ should be privatized and forced to compete in the
commercial arena like any other media enterprise.
I don’t think the BBC is part of Britain’s problem. The institution shouldn’t be eliminated, just
its hapless Director General.
Ed: Since this blog was written, George Entwistle, Director General of the BBC, has resigned as of this evening, 10th November 2012.