Coffee House

Now that George Entwistle has quit, the BBC needs an outsider

10 November 2012

After just 54 days in the job, George Entwistle has quit as BBC director general. In a career-ending interview with John Humphrys this morning, Entwistle admitted that he didn’t know in advance about, or even watch, the Newsnight investigation which which led to Lord McAlpine being falsely named as a child abuser. Nor did he read Friday’s newspapers which revealed the Newsnight claims were false. (“Do you not read papers?’ asked Humphrys. “Do you not listen to the output?”).

Here’s the full car-crash interview:-

And the resignation text:-

“In the light of the fact that the Director-General is also the Editor-in-Chief and ultimately responsible for all content; and in the light of the unacceptable journalistic standards of the Newsnight film broadcast on Friday 2nd November; I have decided that the honourable thing to do is to step down from the post of Director-General. When appointed to the role, with 23 years experience as a producer and leader at the BBC, I was confident the Trustees had chosen the best candidate for the post, and the right person to tackle the challenges and opportunities ahead. However the wholly exceptional events of the past few weeks have led me to conclude that the BBC should appoint a new leader.

To have been the Director-General of the BBC even for a short period, and in the most challenging of circumstances, has been a great honour.
While there is understandable public concern over a number of issues well covered in the media – which I’m confident will be addressed by the Review process – we must not lose sight of the fact that the BBC is full of people of the greatest talent and the highest integrity. That’s what will continue to make it the finest broadcaster in the world.”

There are rumours that Jeremy Paxman may now quit Newsnight, thereby bringing down the show. The corporation is in meltdown, so anything is possible. For now Tim Davie, the BBC audio and music chief, will stand in. But the next BBC director-general will simply have to be an outsider, given the culture change which is so glaringly needed in the BBC’s management. You just can’t go for another remote corporation bureaucrat. This was obvious to anyone listening to the Humphrys interview (which, in exposing the BBC at its worst, also showed the BBC at its best).

So who can save the Beeb? Chris Patten, the chairman of the BBC Trust (who’ll probably have to go too, eventually) spent shedloads on headhunters before appointing Entwistle. The bookmakers’ favourite is Ed Richards, an ex-Blair aide who helped write the 2001 Labour manifesto and now runs Ofcom. How could a quangocrat with such obvious political bias be the frontrunner? Because all of the other likely candidates are BBC men (and women). Poor Mr Davie is second favourite at 6/4 then Ms Thomson at 3/1. Mark Scott, who runs BBC Birmingham, is at 16/1 and then Danny Cohen who runs BBC1 at 20/1. His predecessor Jay Hunt who’s now creative officer at Channel 4 at 25/1.

So who should it be? Chris Patten reads this blog, so I’m sure he’d be very glad of any recommendations that CoffeeHousers may have.

PS The highlight of last Friday’s Newsnight – the point when it was clear realised the entire BBC hierarchy was in disarray – was when Eddie Mair informed viewers that no one from the BBC was around to comment. Then he gave the camera a look that really was worth a thousand words, many of them expletives:-

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Show comments
  • Burkeian

    Hookslaw asks how many stories come out of the BBC with ( unacknowledged ) errors. In the early days of the Iraq war the BBC in the persona of Panorama and the ‘Liberator of Kabul’ ie. Simpson, stated falsely that the Allied Forces were responsible for more civilian casulties than Sadam Hussein. The BBC acknowledged the error very briefly on the news without apology or explanation. Its TV audience were invited to go online if they wished to know more.
    Suspecting that the BBC as always was working to its own agenda and that the true facts had not fitted in, I contacted the BBC to protest that if they broadcast false information on TV a full explanation and apology should be given on TV as well. To my surprise I was invited to make my point to them on TV. I accepted with the stipulation , which was accepted, that I should be able to confront at least a deputy controller on air.
    ( I realised that the ‘Liberator ‘ who had publicised the original error, and with ill-disguised satisfaction, I thought , would not be seeking the limelight on this occasion.)
    As the time for the broadcast approached,and contrary to their undertaking, the representation from the BBC reduced successively until the poor duty editor of the day , unbriefed and ignorant of the facts, was left to take the flak.
    In the event he was forced to admit that the BBC should have broadcast an explanation and an apology on TV. and much to his embarrassment was compelled to issue an apology there and then on behalf of the BBC.
    Apart from exacting an apology from the BBC , a rare event indeed until the recent spate, the only positive feature from the BBC was the genuine and honourable effort of the young producer to try make his numerous hierarchical bosses stick to their original commitment. Their failure and cowardice under fire distressed him greatly. I hope he has managed to by-pass them and gained the promotion that he richly deserved.

  • stephen smith

    Are you getting your Mark Scott’s confused? I thought the one at 16/1 runs the Australian Broadcasting Corporation rather than BBC Birmingham

  • Eddie

    The BBC is a multi-layered bureaucray, with more managers than anything else, and the most mediocre and obedient and sycophantic rise to the top, like the turgid little turds they are. Recently, they have been joined by mediocrities who have leapfrogged over more able people solely because they are female or black – the true losers being white men from ordinary working class or lower middle class backgrounds who cannot tap parental millions or use their networks, like the Dimblebys and Jon Snows of this world.

    I suspect strongly that the cretins at the BBC will attempt to reinforce the CHANGE agenda by appointing a woman, no matter how unsuitable. It’s a short cut short termist way to make that ‘change’ visual. Like saying: ‘hey look, we’re different. we’ve changed, we have a top vagina now!’ Yeah right. Select mediocrities because of gender and socalled ‘positive’ action and you get Loiuse Mensch and that silly bint who’s betraying her constituents out in the jungle as we speak (and stealing money in her tax-payer paid salary too.

    The same applies to race – many better white people get rejected so you can seee all dem photo-fit black faces on’t telly, thee knows!

    I have a horrible feeling that the next Director General could well be Floella Benjamin. Personally, I think Big Ted and Little Ted should be jointly appointed – and they may well get a lot of diversity points too, as the first ursine gay couple to run the Corporation (and they could hardly do any worse than the non-ursines hitherto!)

  • A. R. J. Turgot

    Conrad Black for DG

  • Redneck

    Mr Nelson

    I don’t mean to be rude but I’d appreciate your response:

    “Never mind changes in the DG, should the BBC continue to exist as a licence-fee funded institution?”

    Thank you.

  • Peter Martin

    What the BBC needed, and has for a long while, was professionalism, integrity and objectivity. Along with the licence fee payers who are compelled to fund it, and those subject to its ‘most trusted’ output. To use a recent phrase not unconnected to their self-inflicted multiple seppuku thrusts… ‘but that was a different time’.

  • Scottish Reader

    Have a good clear out ..Start with Patten

  • Iain Hill

    We need Tony Blair. That’ll finish them!

  • Lord John Marbury

    The obvious candidate for DG is actually another BBC insider, but one who is in touch with his audience in a way most broadcasters can only dream of and who is acutely aware, and dismissive, of the mediocrities currently at the helm: Danny Baker

  • LordBlagger

    It should be stripped of all children’s programs, and the license fee that goes with it.

    How can you trust an organisation that covers up for kiddy fidlers with children’s programs?

  • Richard Calhoun

    The best service Patten could give to licence fee holders and the taxpayer is to declare that the BBC business model is bust,it is breaking down too often.
    The way forward Patten should tell us is to break up the BBC into its disparate parts and sell them to private companies and individuals
    Assure us that no big corps will be allowed near the BBC and that after the sale of the disparate parts of the BBC we will be left with multiple choice of a myriad of TV,Radio and Internet businesses from which we can expect great innovation and creativity with no cost to the taxpayer

  • John Lea

    Tony Hayers is a fantastic bet at 500-1!….apart from the fact that he’s dead, having fallen off his roof in a tragic attempt to mend his TV aerial…ironic that the last act he performed was to sacrifice his life for television. “Eat my cheese!”

  • Iain Hill

    Will Schofield be sacked?

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