Poor old Beeb. Damned if they do and damned if they don’t. I can’t help agreeing with today’s article from Avaaz – there are plenty of BBC-bashers out there and many of them have a vested interest in the seeing the end of any public funding for the UK’s oldest and – still – most-loved broadcaster (which incidentally, celebrates 90 years of speech radio today). But we all need to consider the alternatives before jumping on the BBC-bashing bandwagon.
I firmly believe that the Savile scandal was the fault not of the BBC but of our culture in general at the time. As many commentators have noted, the Life on Mars mentality that prevailed during the 1970s was exactly that – a world away from the relatively progressive environments that our workplaces and institutions offer now.
Back in the late 1990s I was deputy editor on Trisha (produced by Anglia, then part of the ITV Network) when the scandal of fake guests on TV talk shows broke (it was easy for the tabloids to pick up on because they used the same models and actors for their own centre page spreads).
The interesting thing was the different ways in which the bosses at Anglia and The BBC dealt with the crisis. At Anglia we were all called up to the boardroom for a cosy chat with tea and biscuits. At the BBC most of our former colleagues, then working on the all-new Vanessa Feltz show, were unceremoniously fired.
As a recipient of tax payers’ money, the BBC is in an impossible position – it has to be seen to act. But of course in situations like this the horse(s) have already bolted – the only action is a kneejerk reaction. And putting another layer of bureaucracy in place is not going to help.
Organisational culture doesn’t develop overnight. What is really sad is seeing a man resigning who had only been in the job 8 weeks and who can hardly take responsibility for mistakes which were years in the making. Ok, so George Entwistle admitted he was unaware, prior to broadcast, of the Newsnight programme wrongly ‘exposing’ Tory peer Lord McAlpine – but that is the fault of the support team around him – not the man himself.
No doubt his team were panicking, and panic is not a good environment for commonsense decision-making, let along creative innovation. Increasing bureaucracy – which seems like the inevitable outcome of the current furore – will continue to stifle the BBC.
The BBC is by no means perfect, but let’s consider the alternatives before putting the boot in.