Scapegoat or Failure to manage BBC?

The BBC Director General, George Entwistle, has resigned following errors in current affair reports on child abuse both involving the flagship current affairs programme on BBC2 Newsnight. Past colleagues have spoken about someone with integrity, and honesty. It seems however that when you are the boss, there is only so many occasions you can say you did not know before you have to quit. He had only been in the post 54 days.

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Jeremy Paxman, most famous anchor on Newsnight made the following comment:

Full statement from Jeremy Paxman via @capelland-

“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.”

What is striking is that for all the heads to roll, the first are at the BBC who had nothing to do with alleged child abuse on BBC premises by Jimmy Savile. Not police officers that did not pursue allegations made against him, or hospital managers that allowed unprecedented access for a celebrity non health worker who raped children in the private rooms they gave him as a night porter. Or the care homes that fawned on his presence. His fame as a radio, TV presenter, and the tens of millions he raised for charity allowed him access despite concerns media and celebrity circles had about him. He abused children for over 40 years.

There is a jewel in British broadcasting that has international renown. From the World Service to Doctor Who, has a global audience. The British Broadcasting Corporation has a reputation that was once the envy of the world. The way it is funded, by a universal TV license, market share and values have made it’s media rivals outspoken in wanting to change it to a shell of it’s former self. The fear is this will give them the chance.

I put my concern that Entwistle should have known what was going on to Rory Bremner, well known satirical impressionist that knows the celebrity and news scene:

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The two cases where the former Director General claimed ignorance: not knowing that a news report on Jimmy Savile being a paedophile on Newsnight was dropped just before a Christmas tribute to the late Jimmy Savile on the BBC last year. The last was Newsnight wrongly accusing a senior Tory figure of being involved in a child sex scandal in Wales in the past few days.

The director general’s brief includes responsibility over the news division. So he should have known or been informed given the sensitive nature. However, smaller fry clearly did not review the latest report to go out. The rumour mill in media circles are other senior managers are going at some point.

As a figure head, Entwistle is an easy scapegoat. Perhaps with better management this could have been avoided. Yet this is a sideshow in what is an horrific scandal to have happened in post modern Britain. There are culpable people who need to answer to justice for allowing such easy access to vulnerable children.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

UPDATE 15/11/2012

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