Straight Talk - Trust in the BBC? I’d trust them more than their critics
To say that the past year or so hasn’t been a great period for the British media would be something of a masterpiece of understatement.
As we in the written press await the recommendations of Lord Justice Leveson and the BBC continues to reel from the crisis that accounted for its director general at the weekend, one might be tempted to wonder what the third great press storm is going to be.
Yet the final chapter of George Entwistle’s 55 days in the corporation’s top job has left me with rather mixed thoughts on the whole sorry affair.
From the moment that the allegations against Jimmy Savile emerged (and we shouldn’t forget that the abuse of children is the real story here, not who exposed it and when), there has been a gradual momentum, fuelled to a large extent by the BBC’s own failings, which was not going to let up until someone paid with their job.
While I’m not convinced of the argument that Jeremy Paxman put forward over the weekend to trace the origins of this crisis back to the last great crisis that engulfed the corporation, which I will refer to as the Hutton report despite the existence of many other words that more accurately reflect my views of it, there is a point to which I can and do see George Entwistle as the fall guy, albeit a very handsomely paid-off fall guy.
I suggested in this column a few weeks ago that it was unrealistic to expect someone who had only just taken the top job to account for things that reportedly happened decades earlier and I stand by that view.
But I don’t think even Mr Entwistle’s staunchest supporters would try to argue that he had handled the fallout particularly well.
Yet I’m sure it wasn’t just the cynic in me that found the utterances of politicians in particular queuing up to pontificate on the issue really rather rancid, either.
Especially ironic, not to mention nauseating, were the references made to the need to restore trust in the corporation.
Trust? Well, while we’re on the subject of trust in public figures, perhaps these politicians who are so ready to preach at the BBC could give us a progress report on how trust in politics is being restored after the expenses scandal. Given the recent exposure of Denis Macshane’s expenses wrongdoings, I don’t think it looks too clever for politicians to be preaching about trust.
And it’s hard to think of many equivalents of a leader being torn apart in the way Mr Entwistle was on his own networks.
I didn’t hear the interview, but reading a transcript of the exchange between him and John Humphrys on the Today programme was, for me, an example of the BBC at its very, very best.
Where else could you imagine the boss of such a vast organisation being held to account so publicly by his staff? I can’t imagine it happening at any other media organisation in this country. Perhaps Geoffrey Howe’s resignation speech, which triggered the downfall of Margaret Thatcher, would be the closest political equivalent in modern times.
Ultimately, the BBC will survive this crisis. The question is at what cost, not simply to those who lose their jobs over it, but to us.
After all, we pay for it.
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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