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Discussion > Is the BBC approaching a tipping point?

First, Richard, thank you for the complimentary remarks.

Dung, even though I'm by nature pessimistic, it seemed possible that a critical mass of ingredients had been thrown into the pot with the potential to bring about changes that, three months ago, would have been unimaginable. Hence my choice of the phrase "tipping point".

Here's an updated list of ingredients we are now aware of:

-- The shitty feelings of betrayal induced in millions of ordinary viewers who, as children and over the decades as adults, had enjoyed Savile's programs. (Hat-tip to Jean Seaton's insight on the Frontline Club discussion.)

--The exposure of deceitful management, deceiving themselves as much as anyone else and whose self-deception led them to believe that, by suppressing the original Newsnight program, the reality would never be revealed and they could get away with broadcasting Savile hagiographies.

-- The culture of secrecy from outside scrutiny (immunity from FOI and financial scrutiny) which is now attracting attention as undesirable.

-- The exposure of a dysfunctional management structure staffed by innumerable managers paid at the £150k+ level but apparently delivering nil value.

-- McAlpine - the attempt to divert attention from Savile which turned into a fiasco.

Have I missed anything else significant?

Nov 10, 2012 at 9:04 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Yes. George Entwistle has resigned.

Nov 10, 2012 at 9:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Yes, that was a significant thing to miss. John Humphreys' interview makes astounding reading.

.... the licence fee is now on life-support.
I think it has a way to go yet before its obitury is published.

Nov 10, 2012 at 10:31 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

http://bogpaper.com/2012/11/02/delingpole-jimmy-savile/

Nov 10, 2012 at 11:26 PM | Registered Commentershub

This is Jeremy Paxman's statement through his agent:

George Entwistle’s departure is a great shame. He has been brought low by cowards and incompetents.

The real problem here is the BBC’s decision, in the wake of the Hutton Inquiry, to play safe by appointing biddable people.

They then compounded the problem by enforcing a series of cuts on programme budgets, while bloating the management.

That is how you arrive at the current mess on Newsnight. I very much doubt the problem is unique to that programme

I had hoped that George might stay to sort this out. It is a great pity that a talented man has been sacrificed while time-servers prosper. I shall not be issuing any further statements or doing any interviews.

I must say that's been my own gut feel throughout. Perhaps it is time to break up the BBC. To make provision for that over the next three years, at which point the license fee would be terminated.

Nov 11, 2012 at 1:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Sir Christopher Bland quoted in the Guardian:

Bland also accused others, including writer George Monbiot, Sally Bercow, the wife of the speaker of the House of Commons, and Tom Watson, the Labour MP, of irresponsible behaviour for circulating McAlpine's name on Twitter.

He's absolutely right to criticise anyone who named McAlpine. I noted this about Monbiot earlier in this thread, being careful not to pass on the name of McAlpine myself. I strongly advise George Monbiot to consult his lawyers. But what about the myriads of anonymous cowards who said terrible things about the peer who will never be brought to justice? The BBC knew that it could rely on this reaction on Twitter and blogs to greatly harm this individual - a total misuse of its power. But that doesn't let off the anonymous cowards, it makes it far worse morally for them too.

Meanwhile the Daily Mail has the inevitable kickback on Steve Messham: A victim of his delusions: Astonishing story the BBC DIDN'T tell you about its troubled star witness. But, for what it's worth, I believe Messham's testimony of being abused by a ring of paedophiles outside Bryn Estyn. I thought his apology to Lord McAlpine the moment he was shown his photograph was artless in its deep regret. Of course it's not right to try to beat up a QC who's cross-examining you during the Waterhouse Inquiry! (But, be honest, who hasn't sometimes had such thoughts about lawyers?) This points to the irreducible difficulties for the legal system dealing with such matters, meaning that some of the worst perpetrators escape justice again and again.

We're in uncharted territory today, as we remember those who paid with their lives for our freedoms. I pray today for all those in authority to be given grace and wisdom, more than any of us deserve.

Nov 11, 2012 at 9:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

The problem is a simple one. The UK, for reasons best known to itself, has a goverment owned state broadcasting service and media company whose main business is a subscription television service. This could be good or bad policy, but its what the UK does.

The government then obliges everyone who watches any sort of TV to subscribe to the state TV service. Its a bit like forcing everyone who reads a paper to subscribe to the Times or the Guardian.

The solution to the endless problems this creates is simple. Just make it optional to subscribe to the BBC. Everyone who likes it, which includes me, will subscribe. Those who don't will subscribe to some other broadcaster. Problem solved.

You can look at this in another way, if you object to the idea that the so called License Fee is in fact subscription. You may feel that its a tax. In that case the way to look at the situation is that the BBC has a monopoly on the proceeds of the tax, and that is what should be changed. Other companies should be able to get some. The way to do that is to have people nominate their broadcaster of choice, and then that company would get so much per capita for every subscriber.

Holland does, or used to do, the same thing with religion. You named your denomination of choice, and that got a per capital chunk of the hypoethecated relgion levy.

Whatever, the solution is simple. Stop forcing everyone to subscribe to the BBC. If it is as well loved as everyone says, it will get almost as many subscriptions as soon as its voluntary. It will actually better off, since those who resent being compelled to subscribe will no longer be able to receive it, having stopped subscribing, and so it will be spared their endless carping and complaining!

Nov 11, 2012 at 9:08 AM | Unregistered Commentermichel

From the BBC itself in the last few minutes:

Reading East MP Rob Wilson says he never called for George Entwistle to stand down, and says it's a "botched" and "cowardly" decision. Mr Wilson has repeatedly written to Lord Patten over both the BBC's handling of the Savile scandal and the recent Newsnight programme.

I think Rob Wilson has come out of all this particularly well. I hope he helps shape the future. But I must stop my liveblogging now :)

Nov 11, 2012 at 9:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

I think the idea of "public service broadcasting" is the right idea and that the subscription system has worked well, the problem is that the BBC has lost sight of its public broadcasting responsibilities or that it falsely believes it is still fulfilling them.
Remaining impartial at all times is a task only known to have been adequately performed by one man; King Solomon, the rest of us struggle.
Why not create two Public Service Broadcasting bodies or at least split the news and current affairs parts into two seperate entities. Create a right wing news service and a left wing news service, this would give perfect political balance.
In addition to political balance I believe many other issues would fall naturally into one camp or the other, idealistic and green would be of the left and pragmatic and industry would be on the right. So often in the UK there are times when one side or the other dominates the media and I think that this is one of those times.

Nov 11, 2012 at 1:08 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Martin A
May I pick up on the five "ingredients" you discussed above.
1.The feelings of betrayal — Agreed.
2. ... deceitful management, believing that the reality would never be revealed and they could get away with broadcasting Savile hagiographies. — No. With respect, that is still an opinion (though you are probably right!). I think we need to see McQuarrie's report before we can be certain of this.
3. The culture of secrecy from outside scrutiny (immunity from FOI and financial scrutiny) which is now attracting attention as undesirable — but only from the usual suspects, namely the sceptical blogs, the Daily Mail, and Booker and Delingpole. Have you seen mention anywhere else?
4.The exposure of a dysfunctional management structure staffed by innumerable managers paid at the £150k+ level but apparently delivering nil value. — Well known for years, but see below.
5. McAlpine - the attempt to divert attention from Savile. Perhaps. Or an attempt (successful) to screw the D-G

Who was it that agreed the Newsnight programme without referring it to the D-G (and I accept his argument that he has a houseful of middle-managers whose job it is to vet these things)? Answer: the Middle Managers.
Who stood to suffer most if Entwistle had been able to do what he (allegedly) was appointed to do, ie slim down the Corporations over-bloated administration? Answer: the Middle Managers.

Nothing at the BBC is ever quite as it seems but one thing that became clear as soon as the name of George Entwistle was mentioned as a serious contender for D-G was that a lot of people of whom you and I and most of the programme-makers had never heard suddenly started getting very twitchy. Once the appointment was announced there was (if my source isn't a complete liar) an increase in the number of private dinner parties in places like ... well, name any bit of London that has "come up in the world" in the last 10 years (think Bird and Fortune!).
Only speculating, of course, but it is all quite plausible, don't you think?

Nov 11, 2012 at 6:03 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Chris Patten – chairman of the BBC Trust – was the Tory minister who brought in the Poll Tax. At the same time Alistair McAlpine was treasurer of the Tory party. So not exactly unkown to each other.

McAlpine was named by scallywag magazine in1995 connected to child abuse at Bryn Estyn, it's not known weather Lord McAlpine intended to sue the magazine before it went out of print (during it's investigation into the N. Wales pedophile ring) after the mysterious death of the editor.

John Whittingdale is chairman of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee which will examine the BBC’s reporting of child abuse…

According to Kathryn Knight in The Times, 2 September 1995:-
‘Former teacher jailed for sex abuse of boys’
‘A former British Council worker who sexually abused boys at his home was sent to prison for nine months yesterday. Charles Napier, 48, a former teacher and half-brother of John Whittingdale, MP, who was a private secretary to Margaret Thatcher, was a treasurer of the Paedophile Information Exchange and had convictions for child abuse going back as far as 1972, Kingston Crown Court was told.’

Small world eh.

If the full story ever comes out, it won't be just the BBC approaching a tipping point, it'll be the whole corrupt cesspit known as "the establishment"

I'll not be holding my breath.

Nov 11, 2012 at 7:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrosty

And I've just seen on Sky News that George Entwistle is to receive a year's salary (£450,000) for resigning , apparently to compensate for the fact that he might have to hang around and answer some questions.

Nov 11, 2012 at 10:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

On his blog John Redwood asks 'Do we trust the BBC Trust?' and picks up on the Newbery issue:
'Isn’t it time for the Trust to demand proper journalist standards? It could ask why the BBC has spent a lot of money blocking FOI requests seeking to find out how balanced the BBC is in its approach to energy policy and global warming.'
I understand Redwood's musings get read by some of 'the great and the good'.

Nov 11, 2012 at 11:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterQuercus

Mike -

Martin A
May I pick up on the five "ingredients" you discussed above.
1.The feelings of betrayal — Agreed.

2. ... deceitful management, believing that the reality would never be revealed and they could get away with broadcasting Savile hagiographies. — No. With respect, that is still an opinion (though you are probably right!). I think we need to see McQuarrie's report before we can be certain of this.

I have more trust in my own opinion, based on what we have seen, than I will have in a whitewash report produced by a BBC employee. The many and varied stories that came out of the BBC, contradicted by the Newsnight investigators, gave off an overpowering stench of deceit. Is there an alternative explanation? This is an organisation that covered up Savile's crimes for decades.

3. The culture of secrecy from outside scrutiny (immunity from FOI and financial scrutiny) which is now attracting attention as undesirable — but only from the usual suspects, namely the sceptical blogs, the Daily Mail, and Booker and Delingpole. Have you seen mention anywhere else?

Rob Wilson, Reading MP. ( Listen to the .mp3 of the Frontline Club seminar. 49:15 "...on the BBC's lack of accountability, including FOI. Trying to get the emails from/to ITV in September published. " Nov 8, 2012 at 5:57 PM Richard Drake )

Plus, see Nov 11, 2012 at 11:04 PM Quercus above


4.The exposure of a dysfunctional management structure staffed by innumerable managers paid at the £150k+ level but apparently delivering nil value. — Well known for years, but see below.

Maybe well-known to those who knew it but the nil-value has just had lots of publicity. And the there has been very firm evidence of the nil-value.

5. McAlpine - the attempt to divert attention from Savile. Perhaps. Or an attempt (successful) to screw the D-G

The D-G was sleepwalking. Which of his assistants had he told "Brief me on anything on paedophiles that could be even sightly controversial long before it goes out?" - none. If you are a new D-G your very first priority is to identify and neutralise anyone out to shaft you. (re-read Machiavelli)

Who was it that agreed the Newsnight programme without referring it to the D-G (and I accept his argument that he has a houseful of middle-managers whose job it is to vet these things)? Answer: the Middle Managers.

see above

Who stood to suffer most if Entwistle had been able to do what he (allegedly) was appointed to do, ie slim down the Corporations over-bloated administration? Answer: the Middle Managers.

see above

(snip)
Only speculating, of course, but it is all quite plausible, don't you think?

I rated Entwhisle as a lame duck after he appeared in front of the Parliamentary committee without it even occurring to him that he needed to have got himself briefed. He was totally out of his depth and lacking in elementary management skills. If there is any doubt on this, listen to the Humphrys interview. In any new top level job you have to watch your back - if only from the passed-over and disgruntled subordinates who think they should have been given your job.

I'm sorry to see him go. With someone as useless as him at the helm, the final wreck of the BBC was going to occur very soon indeed.

Nov 12, 2012 at 12:31 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Unanswered questions posed by the BBC news and current affairs coverage and identified by John Redwood on his blog :

1. Why did they have a long record of failing to offer reasonable air time and fair treatment to Eurosceptics? Why did it take external studies to reveal the shortage of airtime given to critics of the EU, the adverse way they were introduced and treated, and the more frequent interruptions they suffered?

2. Why are critics of global warming theory either ignored or treated as cranks, when there is still serious scientific and economic debate about the causes of climate change, the extent of it and the best way of responding to it?

3. Why does the BBC normally interview people from a left of centre perspective – demanding more expenditure, higher taxes, more government intervention – rather than from a right of centre perspective, asking people why they don’t cut taxes, control spending and reduce the role of government? Shouldn’t a balanced broadcaster do a bit of each?#

4. Why are losses, unusual tax arrangements, financial engineering in the public sector treated more leniently than similar things in the private sector?

5. Why did all the layers of BBC management fail to instill into Newsnight after the Savile crisis the need to investigate thoroughly and present a case with evidence to back it up where there is plenty of evidence, and to cancel an enquiry where there is insufficient evidence?

6. Why, after the failure of the Newsnight team on the Savile issue, did management not require stricter reporting and higher standards for future work?

7. Which managers approved the Macalpine piece? Had anyone on Newsnight read the Waterhouse Report which had looked at these allegations years before? Had they seen the comments on their witness? Why did they fail to put the allegations to the person they were falsely accusing? Why did they tweet out that they would be revaling a top tory paedophile, only not to name one? Why did they not expose again the actions of Labour Clwyd County Council, which was responsible for the children’s home and the social service department in question? Why did they not remind us of the 7 people who were successfuly convicted of crimes in the North Wales abuse tragedy, none of whom were prominent Conservatives?

8. What changes did Mr Entwistle wish to put in place? Why did he not tell the Select Committee or the Today programme about these?

9. If Mr Entwistle “exemplifies the highest sdtandards of public service broadcasting” why did these obvious errors occur on his watch?

10. What is the BBC going to do about its top heavy and clearly ineffective management? Shouldn’t the editors of flagship programmes be responsible for their journalistic output, discussing it with lawyers and others where necessary? Isn’t the only other person who must have a view in difficult cases, the Editor in Chief?



12. Why does Mr Entwistle get such a large pay off when he has done the job for such a short space of time and decided to resign because he did not think he had done or could do the job well enough?

The BBC Trust needs to tell us what value we are getting for the all the expensive layers of management in the BBC. They need to tell us who is responsible for controlling editors whose journalistic standards are not high enough, or who is responsible for appointing them.

(I wonder where item 11 went?}

Nov 12, 2012 at 7:09 AM | Registered Commentermatthu

Have I missed anything else significant?
Nov 10, 2012 at 9:04 PM Martin A
Add: A payoff to Entwhistle (after quitting the job having been in it for less than two months and having demonstrated incapability) of more than 3000 licence fee payers payments.

And they talk about "rebuilding fee payers trust"?


On looking at my Nov 12, 2012 at 12:31 AM reply to Mike, it reads as though I somewhat accept the "Entwhistle was shafted" hypothesis. I don't buy it at all.

The McAlpine fiasco was due to the beeb's eagerness to rush out a "Tories bugger children" story - the manager who authorised it has not done his career any good and, even if he would have liked to get the new D-G shafted, he was unlikely to do it by launching a kamikaze strike.

Nov 12, 2012 at 8:32 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

@martin a

You said

'I had a boss once who pointed out to me that organisations behave consistently. If they are shambolic on one aspect of their operations, they were probably shambolic in other aspects.'

You need only read Harry_Read_Me and have even a basic understanding of professional IT practices for this truism to become manifest. I have grave doubts as to whether anyone at CRU could find their arse with both hands, let alone whether they should be allowed to play with data of international social and political importance.

'Shambolic' understates the case.

Nov 12, 2012 at 9:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

I couldn't resist retweeting this from Mike Smith:

BBC News now have a live helicopter up at £1500 an hour. Filming the BBC. #bizarre

Boris Johnson makes some important points in the Telegraph:

Everyone at the BBC is agreed on one thing: that it is a “tragedy”. Yes, it is a tragedy for the poor old BBC. ... To call someone a paedophile is to consign them to the lowest circle of hell – and while they are still alive. It follows that you should not call someone a paedophile unless you are pretty sure of your facts.

But there's a ruthlessly populist side to BoJo. Thus:

You can’t really blame the tweeters and the bloggers. “McAlpine” was the steer they were given, and it was Alistair McAlpine that Newsnight had in its sights.

Bashing the BBC is great politics right now. But all those tweeters and bloggers have lots of votes so we can't afford to criticise them, can we? That's the wonderful thing about the Internet. You can accuse a person of the vilest crime but because you're doing it in a mob and cannot be traced, nobody can blame you.

This isn't just about the BBC. And it isn't just about the victims of abuse - though Eileen Fairweather gave a great overview of the way we should approach that issue now in the same paper on Friday.

It certainly should be about who in the BBC covered up for Jimmy Savile. Such a man cannot have done what he did without protection of some sort. And the fact this is shining a much brighter light on Tony Newbery's lonesome battles on the Climate 28, because of when the FOI verdict was handed down, is truly amazing. Not science but policy experts, eh. But experts in deception are on their way out. It remains to be seen how much of the BBC will be left at the end of that.

Nov 12, 2012 at 11:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

"That's the wonderful thing about the Internet. You can accuse a person of the vilest crime but because you're doing it in a mob and cannot be traced, nobody can blame you"

Yes, Richard, ... we can't throw the boy who cried that the emperor has no clothes in prison, can we?

Nov 12, 2012 at 2:08 PM | Registered Commentershub

Shub, to be clear, are you saying that McAlpine is in fact a paedophile and that those who said so on Twitter and blogs were equivalent in moral stature and accuracy to the little boy in the fable?

Nov 12, 2012 at 3:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

The BBC has confessed to “shoddy journalism” in the paedophile area. Given its self-confessed bias in reporting on climate issues, together with its unyielding approach to FOI requests in the area, is there any mileage in pursuing it for shoddy environmental and climate journalism? Indeed, how can the denial of FOI requests on the grounds of “purposes of journalism” be justified if the alleged journalism is “shoddy” and therefore not journalism at all?

Nov 12, 2012 at 5:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohnMcM

MartinA
I was only speculating but the theory hangs together though I agree that the initial impetus was as you describe and as I have said elsewhere.
But there is no question of whichever manager authorised the Newsnight piece falling on his sword for the very simple reason that it will be impossible to locate and identify him. The problem in the BBC is as matthu reports in item 10 of John Redwood's questionnaire above. The decision will have been referred up as the man who should make the decision covers his back (the one thing BBC staff are very good at) and "go ahead, but m'learned friends say 'no name'" will have come back down again — but I defy anyone to pinpoint the point where that decision was made so there will be no risk attached.
There are certainly enough chair polishers glad to see the back of Entwistle and prepared to hasten his departure before he can do any damage, believe me.

Nov 12, 2012 at 6:04 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Richard

You are inconsistent; today in the Tony Newbury thread you praised Andrew Montford and friends for the job they were doing and believed at some point that they would get recognition. On the same day in this thread you accuse a large part of the "friends" of being a mob hiding behind anonymity.
You make these accusations without any knowledge as to whether any or all these people would be willing to reveal their true identities if asked. At the moment you are, on a daily basis insulting the majority of people who post on BH.

Nov 12, 2012 at 6:06 PM | Registered CommenterDung

...but I defy anyone to pinpoint the point where that decision was made so there will be no risk attached.
(...)
Nov 12, 2012 at 6:04 PM Mike Jackson

Mike -

"Radio 5 Live controller Adrian van Klaveren – installed as an overseer after Mr Rippon stepped aside – had signed off the programme's script 24 hours before it was broadcast. "

Taken from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2231325/Jeremy-Paxman-Newsnight-anchor-lambasts-incompetents-cowards-BBC.html

Nov 12, 2012 at 7:14 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

'Shambolic' understates the case.
Nov 12, 2012 at 9:20 AM Latimer Alder

I completely agree, though as it's off-topic for this thread, let's discuss CRU chaos elsewhere.

But I'll add that my former boss said "...you don't normally need to go into great detail asking about their quality control system. Just ask to use the toilets when you are away from the management suite - one quick look will tell you all you really need to know".

Nov 12, 2012 at 7:21 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A