Coffee House

Chaos at the BBC

12 November 2012

The BBC crisis continues to dominate the airwaves. George Entwistle’s £1.3 million payoff has set outraged tongues wagging. Tim Montgomerie has collected the furious comments made by several Tory MPs. Much of the rest of the press pack has followed suit, saying that the severance deal is yet another self-inflicted wound by BBC management.

Meanwhile, Helen Boaden and Stephen Mitchell, who are respectively the director and deputy director of BBC News, have stepped aside pending the results of the Pollard inquiry. David Dimbleby told the Today programme that he couldn’t understand why George Enwistle resigned, adding that the continuing fallout from the Savile scandal is not the greatest disaster to befall the BBC. He also said that the BBC is governed by a cabal of managers who speak ‘gobbledegook’. This strident intervention has led several interested commentators to wonder if Dimbleby has designs on the director generalship; Andrew Neil goes one further, asking if Dimbleby has his eyes on the chairmanship.

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These feverish developments do not suggest that the corporation’s leadership has a grip on the crisis. It is little surprise, therefore, to see Lord Patten coming under renewed pressure. Philip Davies MP appeared on the Today programme earlier this morning and argued that Patten should resign for having been ‘asleep at the wheel’. And the Murdoch press, in the form of the Times (£), has responded to Patten’s confrontational comments yesterday by challenging him to prove that he is the man to inaugerate reform and appoint a new director general.

Patten, though, is not without friends in the press and the corporation. Libby Purves has written a forthright column (£) in his defence, turning her righteous anger on the ‘useless “referees”’, the ‘bloated management layers’, which failed to save Newsnight from itself. John Simpson makes the same point only with a little more nuance in the Telegraph, pointing out that editorial cuts have left Newsnight depending on the services of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. This position implies that the cuts should be reversed and applied elsewhere if quality is to be maintained.

This media circus is richly entertaining, as the elite devours itself. Who, for instance, could resist the vital information imparted by the Mail that ‘Dry’ Lord McAlpine loathes ‘Wet’ Lord Patten, even down to the greedy manner in which he eats oysters. It’s like something out of Evelyn Waugh.

Beneath the hilarity, however, lie two very serious points: further evidence of child abuse, which must be properly investigated (I would argue by a full judicial inquiry), and a witch hunt conducted in the badlands of the internet. Lord McAlpine is considering legal action against those who libelled and slandered him on Twitter. This should interest the print media, which lives in fear of libel, and those considering statutory regulation of the press. The elephant in Sir Brian Leveson’s hearing room has always been comparably ungoverned and vastly influential social media.

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Show comments
  • Jim Araali-Kabyanga

    A simple test for anyone in BBC news management, if you cannot
    answer the following two questions, then you should not be responsible for any
    journalistic decisions and likely shouldn’t be in news management:

    1. What are the 6 interrogative words key to any story?

    2. Why is 1 important?

    I was taught this when I was 11.

  • Gary

    Jerry Sadowitz, and Victor Lewis-Smith should be given Knighthoods for exposing Savile.

  • wrinkledweasel

    Not surprising that those defending the BBC, the Guardianistas like Ben Bradshaw and Harriet Harman, are part of the left-leaning liberal elite who depend on the BBC to promulgate their particularly subversive brand of PC hogwash.

  • Dimoto

    I notice that in the general furore, Watson and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, have slunk off to the deep cover of the shrubbery.
    I do hope McAlpine’s lawyers are well funded and on the ball.

  • don logan

    Watching this utter shambles and all the progressive bedwetters getting their knickers in a twist is almost, and I mean almost, worth the licence fee.

  • Colin

    I just listened to the latest Director General being taken apart by Ed Stourton on Radio 4. Christ knows what Humphrys would have done to him !

    Davie came across like a new labour tw*t, circa 2002 and that, is the crux of the problem; that’s all the beeb have in terms of talent. He should save us all some time and money and just “stand aside” now and be done with it.

    • Vulture

      Davie Boy the (very) acting DG has now walked off his first TV interview when Sky’s Dermot asked him an awkward question. Pitiful, utterly pitiful. He looked like a third hand car salesman ( no tie, lots of hand waving) and sounded like a mockney caught nicking from parking meters. All told came over like the manager of a Travelodge Hotel trying to jusfy dirty bedsheets and a persistant smell of shit.

      Lord Reith’s grave must be resembling a carousel. Have we really, really come to this?

  • Fiona Cowan

    I am reminded of natural history documentaries showing one injured shark leading to a growing frenzy of feeding monsters. Are there no grown-ups sufficiently high up the BBC food chain to take a grip?

  • ButcombeMan

    David Dimbleby “cannot understand etc”

    Thus absolutely disqualifying himself from any role in managing the BBC or the Trust.

    The casual attack on McAlpine’s reputation and Dimblebore “cannot understand” the inevitable consequences for the Editor in Chief?.

    Is Dimblebore paid through a “personal service company”? Has he been so paid during his 50 years of service? Perhaps we can be told.

  • aussie davey street

    Why not privatise this gross behemothic org and put the billions towards paying off national debt. Governments should not be funding media outlets in democracies anyway. The BBC is there because it’s there and no other reason. Selling it lock stock and barrell would allow the British people to keep their annual; licence fees and the new commercial owners could run ads to pay for it all and give Murdoch et al a run for their money..

  • John Whitehead

    inaugerate? Please.

  • Iain Hill

    PS. Could you please fix the illegible website!

  • Iain Hill

    You may be entertained by it, but the rest of us are bored rigid. Could we just have brief reports of any real developments, and end the wall to wall repetitious coverage, please.

    • Sarah

      That would involve the Spectator journalists doing something more than surfing the Guardian website and emailing their friends for stories.

  • thecookiemonster

    Police and CPS, with far more investigative and legal powers than the BBC, were unable or unwilling to pursue the Saville case. But it’s the BBC that gets nailed to the cross?? Or were they supposed to broadcast hearsay (you know, like Meesham..?) Nobelprize for double standards and hypocrisy to the Tories and the British media. Welcome to the Foxification of the UK and the cloudcuckooland of the Murdoch press!!

    • Rhoda Klapp

      Sensible comment, monster. If you cannot surmount the hurdle of reasonable doubt and presumption of innocence, just what are you supposed to do? Especially when your witnesses are troubled kids and the offences took place in private. Of course, if indeed ‘everybody knew’ in the BBC they ought not to have continued to give Savile access to kids, but any hint of the reason, any nods and winks given other parties and the writs would have been flying. I don’t know the answer, except that the moral courage to do something against the monolith of an orgnisation like the BBC is something we cannot be sure we would be able to summon. Easier to make a fuss afterwards.

      Incidentally, I don’t much care about the Newsnight thing. I suspect the institutional culture of the BBC will remain unaffected, it will sacrifice as many pawns as it needs to in order to survive. It’s the whole fat smug auntie knows best attitude that I would like to get at. Not a chance.

    • Andy

      Don’t be silly. You are conflating two issues here. On Savile remember that he is dead – you cannot libel the dead. The BBC had gathered enough evidence that would have substantiated the claims of child abuse against him.

      With regard to Lord McAlpine, he is very much alive, so the BBC should have been mindful of the law of libel. They don’t seem to have cared. The allegations were based upon the word of Stephen Meesham, but he is, I’m afraid, an unreliable witness. There was a libel case involving him which cost Private Eye, The Observer and the Independent on Sunday a great deal of money. The Waterhouse Inquiry, where he named a McAlpine as an abuser, also thought he should be treated with caution. The BBC made no effort to contact Lord McAlpine, although Michael Crick at Channel 4 rang him up and he denied it. And so it goes on.

      The reality is the BBC set out to smear the Conservatives using Lord McAlpine to do so. Well it will cost them dear. But you should answer a question: just exactly how is Lord McAlpine’s good name and reputation to be restored ???

  • Reconstruct

    What, precisely, is this ‘stepping aside’? Are they still getting paid? Are they suspended? Or are they simply hiding?

    These people have questions to answer, and, I expect, new careers to find. I can’t imagine any other institution allowing disgraced managers simply to ‘step aside’ temporarily in order to avoid the flak. I want them grilled, in public, sweating under the lights.

    • Gary

      Have you heard of “banks”? Disgraced managers and CEOs of those “institutions” gave themselves huge pay rises after f****g up the entire economy and collecting massive welfare handouts.

    • Judy

      The BBC has had a whole series of invented opaque procedures to enable it to have its cake and eat it. We have had “recusing” and “stepping aside” for Peter Rippon, the producer of the canned Newnight programme and Helen Boaden and Steve Mitchell, the execs with responsibility for BBC news output and hence the original Newsnight programme.

      In any normal enterprise, an individual potentially responsible for a major disaster which could have equally major legal implications would be suspended. That’s a procedure under emplloyment law where the individual relinquishes their post and is required, whilst being paid their full salary to remove themselves from the organisation and all direct contact with their colleagues, until a properly constituted enquiry resolves whether or not they bear responsibility and/or face resultant sanctions, including dismissal. Their legal expenses in defending themselves are not normally paid by the organization unless they are ultimately vindicated.

      What “recusing” and “stepping aside” do serves the BBC, not the licence payer and the public. It means that the people who may be responsible for very serious misconduct stay inside the organization and are able to assist the BBC legal team and management in devising whatever self-protection narratives they wish. They have full access to records and to their colleagues whilst having no other responsibilities. And this is when a supposedly independent enquiry– but one commissioned by the very people responsible for this legal loophole– is taking place into the misconduct they may be responsible for.

      All this is being done at our expense.

      People accused of misconduct on the levels that the “recused’ and “stepped aside” individuals are charged with should be immediately suspended, and required to remove themselves from contact with the organisation.

      Likewise, it appears that the enormously inflated amount that has been given to Entwistle with the full agreement of Patten is going to enable him to continue to “assist with” the enquiries into the BBC’s conduct. Surely he would be obliged to do that anyway? Giving him at least £212,000 more than he is legally entitled to might be considered by anyone not dazzled by the self-righteousness of the BBC to be an inducement to support the BBC’s chosen line.

      And of course we need to keep reminding ourselves that there is a string of by-elections and the election for Police Commissioners imminent.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Fat Pang needs look no further than Ken Loach (whom I detest) for a management summary of what is wrong with the BBC and what he needs to get off his fat, privileged arse to fix:-

    “Television kills creativity. It is produced by a pyramid of producers, executive producers, commissioning editors, heads of department, assistant heads of department and so, who sit on people doing the work and stifle the life out of them. Can you believe the lunacy that goes on in these places?”

    And all of the over-paid, over-powered bureaucrats of that bloated management structure are graduates and fully paid up members of the champagne socialist left. Fat Pang is supposed to be a conservative so it’s time he got cracking or got out.

    • Vulture

      Pang is a Conservative like John Bercow is. Ie. Not at all. He is, rather, a greasy pole climber of the liberal left – which is why Cameron appointed him. Now that we know he was aware of the Newsnight smear before it went out ( and did not bother to tell ‘incurious George’ Entwhistle), he has no defences or fall guys left and must resign. See Simon Heffer’s dissection in today’s Mail of the history of the long animosity between Pang and McAlpine to get some inkling of why Fatty let the disgraceful broadcast go ahead. I suppose he’s busy right now arranging another fat pension pay-off. George Orwell asked to change his seat in a restaurant so that he would not have to look at ‘the corrupt face’ of the then New Statesman editor KIngsley Martin. I feel the same way when I look at Patten’s unlovely visage.

  • Judy

    Boris has a very good Telegraph column this morning in which he rightly expresses scorn and indignation at the current BBC response of overwhelming self-pity and self-absorption, and the failure to apprehend the enormity of what has been done to Lord McAlpine in using the authority of the BBC to smear him and the Thatcher era Tories as a paedophile in a Cabinet which provided a home for a paedophile ring.

    Boris allows the BBC the benefit of the doubt as to whether this was done with malice or not.

    This seems extraordinarily generous of Boris, because, perhaps because he is so focused on London, he hasn’t pointed out that this current furore has been worked up when there are four by-elections imminent and the Police commissioner elections are imminent. Coincidentally there are major scandals emerging about child abuse in Labour local authorities which are under scrutiny at this time by House of Commons Select Committee, one of the elections has been occasioned by the resignation of the expenses fraudster Denis MacShane and the trial has begun of former Labour MP Margaret Moran for expenses frauds of over £53,000.


    • Gary

      Ho ho, Boris is not focused on London, he’s focused on himself, as always. As for the police commissioner elections, they are a crock of poo and a waste of time, as the police are an utterly corrupt entity.

      As for expenses, all politicians are crooks and parasites, of all parties, no exceptions. If you haven’t realized this, you are naive.

  • Peter Martin

    At £1.5M and counting, just today, I am as a licence fee compelee taking this rather seriously. Family has agreed to pull DD & SKY sub. How gov’t & broadcast industry takes that tba.

    • eeore

      I doubt they will care, but you and your family will be happier.

  • Swiss Bob

    Lord McAlpine is considering legal action against those who libelled and slandered him on Twitter.

    Please, please let him sue Sally Bercow and George Monbiot.

    • Gary

      How will he sue 4chan and Reddit, then?
      They are all anonymous, ho ho ho.

      • Swiss Bob

        Whether he sues them or not I could give a toss. However the prosecution of loud mouthed morons Bercow and Monbiot will provide great entertainment.

        • Gary

          He should sue the police as well. They apparently told Mr Meesham the wrong person, and its the police cover-up of the Wales abuse that spawned this whole mess.
          You know, the police, who failed to investigate Savile and destroyed evidence of the abuse of 650 boys in Wales.

          • Swiss Bob

            You mean the investigation that resulted in jail of over a hundred social workers and teachers in the Labour controlled council?

            • eeore

              And it would handy to have an investigation into why Labour is so keen on sending more children into ‘care’.

              • HooksLaw

                Labour want to take children away from parents and into care so socialist councillors can paederise them.

                There is an argument for saying that labour want to encourage unsuitable couples to have children so they can them take them away into care.

                Thats my conspiracy theory. The labour party offers a much better hunting ground than the tory party for any self respecting peaderat

            • Sarah

              Mr Meesham identified his abuser from a photograph. It was the police who incorrectly told him the photograph was of Lord McAlpine. It is the police who are unreliable.

              • Gary

                Conveniently for the police, this has alas been forgotten. The police have been shown to be totally untrustworthy by recent scandals. Hillsborough and Charles De Menezes are graphic examples of how the police ruthlessly seek to smear or discredit people to cover their own asses.

                In the case of De Menezes, several newspapers, in cahoots with the police, ran a vicious smear campaign the murdered De Menezes and his family.Likewise with Hillsborough the police smeared witnesses and victims to conceal their own incompetence and criminality. Again, phone-hacking showed the police’s treasonous friendliness with the press. Make no mistake, the police committed treason by serving other masters while purporting to serve the public.

                It would not surprise me if the police have stitched Mr. Meesham up.

          • Andy

            We don’t know what the Police told Meesham. Nor do we know whose picture they showed him – it could have been anybody.

            What we do know is that on the basis of an interview Meesham gave to the BBC (the BIJ) they defamed Lord McAlpine in the most serious manner. He will, I hope, sue for libel and will win. It will cost the BBC at the very least a £1 million.

            • Gary

              We also know that the police destroyed evidence. Now, why would they destroy evidence? Hmmmm…why do people destroy evidence?

              As Hillsborough, Hackgate, and De Menezes scandals demonstrated clearly, the police are self-serving amoral sh**s who care only about their fat pensions and their precious fellow Freemasons. When the police get into trouble they smear and divert then run off with their ridiculously generous pensions.

              Nonce Protector in Chief and Freemason Keith Waterhouse, QC Elias (another Freemason) and the police (loaded with Freemasons) made sure the abusers (almost all Freemasons) got away with it.

            • MinnieOvens

              No, it will cost us £1.0 Million which means even less money will go into quality programming, if there is such a thing anymore in the BBC, but will follow our money down Patten’s oyster ready throat.
              It somewhat extraordinary that the one person who is responsible for the ethic at the BBC should fire someone who has only been in the top job a month or so.
              Irony rules!

            • colliemum

              Ahem. Slight correction: it will cost us, the licence fee payers, whatever sum it is, not the BBC.

              • eeore

                Not if he sues the individuals involved.

                • colliemum

                  So where did and does the money for the salaries of those individuals come from?
                  It couldn’t possibly come from our licence fees, could it …

                • eeore

                  So according to your logic anyone who has shopped at Tesco should have the right to go for a swim in the CEO’s pool.

                • colliemum

                  You are beclowning yourself with that comment.

                • eeore

                  Nope, I am pointing out the fallacy of your faux consumerist argument.

                • colliemum

                  Sorry, this last comment by you shows that you didn’t understand what I wrote in the first place.

                • eeore

                  Oh I understood. It was pure Daily Mail emotionalism. I am simply pointing out to you the realities of the relationship between buyer and seller.

                  Despite what the BBC adverts say, it is not ‘your BBC’, it never was, it never will be, and the only reason for that advertising strapline is to justify the television tax.

                • colliemum

                  One piece of advice: learn about the Law of Holes.

                  That’s all.

                • eeore

                  It’s you in the elephant trap. That’s why I am standing on the edge of the pit offering to help you out.

          • eeore

            How do you know that?

  • Vulture

    To appoint that complacent, superannuated tub of Lard Dimbleby to any position at the BBC apart from the blokes in commissoner’s uniform who hail your taxis outside BH would be a monumental error.

    The man has been riding on his dear old dad’s coattails for half a century and its high time he was put put to grass except to be wheeled out annually to do Remebrance Day. ( And even that he cocked up yesty, confusing the Ulster bloke with the Plaid Cymru bloke).

    I have done two stints at the bBC and have quit both times sickened by its arrogance, its kneekerk Guardianista attitudes and its sheer contempt for the ordinary people who pay its ( grossly inflated and wasted) wages.

    What’s needed is a tough new chairman and DG ( Suggest Andrew Neil and Jeff Randall) with powers to completely purge the bloated, corrupt and institutionally left-wing monstrosity from top to bottom.

    But this is the sort of decisive action to be expected from a tough decisive PM – so enough said. Cameron will fight tooth and nail to keep his mate Patten in place as he appointed him in the first place. It’s Dave AND Patten who must go.

    • Andy

      I would rather just break it up and sell it off. It is now far too big and is a virtual monopoly in many areas.

      The fact it defamed Lord McAlpine with such casual ease merely proves the point.

      • Gary

        If you sell it off it will end up like Britain’s shitty expensive gay third world corporate welfare train service, and probably end up costing the taxpayer a fortune, while a few fat politicians get rich and make us all pay for it.

        Beeb didn’t name McAlpine. Scallywag did in 1994, and the names have been swirling around the internet for years. He was never named but the internet speculation about Blair, Clarke, Robinson, as well as known nonces such as Righton, has been active for years.

        Jerry Sadowitz and Victor Lewis-Smith branded Jimmy Savile a paedophile decades ago, I might add.

        • Andy

          You obviously do not understand even a tiny, tiny bit of the Law of Libel. The BBC didn’t need to name Lord McAlpine: they provided enough information for his identity to be quickly established. In so doing they defamed him. Can they substantiate the report they put out ? The answer to that is clearly no. That is the Law.

    • Dimoto

      Well done, finally, an excellent post.

  • Russell

    We have piggie Ben Bradshaw defending the huge payout of licence feepayers money to Entwhistle, along with the overpaid presenter Jon Snow.
    All these overpaid troughers, whether Quango CEO’s, Council Chiefs, MP’s or BBC really do think they deserve shedfuls of money from us, the poor sods who have to pay for them.
    It has to end, and end now. I am sick of hearing “we must learn from this” and “we must move on” endlessly.
    These overpaid incompetent people must be thrown off the public payroll without huge sums of cash as a reward for their incompetence.

    • Gary

      Why, I thought you people wanted the Beeb to be run like a private company?
      After all, we the taxpayers pay the bankers bonuses and you people say nowt, why are you suddenly upset when its not the bankers bum-raping you?

      • Colonel Mustard


        • Gary

          Well, that’s how private companies work, boys and girls. Employees are sacked to pay for the jobsworth CEO’s fat bonuses.
          The exceptions are companies like the excellent Nintendo. Alas Satoru Iwata is the exception, exemplifying the far superior ethics of the Japanese over our empty suit British numpties.

          • Colonel Mustard

            Yawn II

      • Julian F

        Possibly the most vacuous comment ever posted here.

        • eeore

          Ok, why is the government funding the banks?

          • Julian F

            If you mean why is the Bank of England employing quantitative easing, it’s to keep mortgage rates down. Long may it continue.

            • eeore

              You really are clueless.

      • Russell

        Is your surname by chance Glitter?

    • 2trueblue

      Which is why Patten has to go. He has presided over the hiring and ‘leaving’ of the guy. There was a contract in place, and what does he do? Doubles the package. The culture is as you state, not their money and they have no respect for where it comes from….. us.
      How other senior management can sit outside the circle and watch the show is outrageous. They are either part of the management or they are no, if not what are we paying them such fancy sums and giving them such fancy titles. The whole place needs gutting and get rid of the rubbish…… the lot.

      • 2trueblue

        Bradshaw….. Lots of PFI projects set up in his reign? Thought so, no respect for our money.

  • HooksLaw

    There has always been chaos at the BBC, its just that they and most outsiders did not know it until now.

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