The BBC Car Crash Rolls on: Entwistle’s Resignation Must Have the Rest of the Media Cackling

George Entwistle delivering his resignation with BBC Trust Chairman Lord Patten   ©Sky News/screengrab

So, BBC Director General George Entwistle has resigned after a record low of 54 days in the job. I can’t help but feel a little bit sorry for him; he’s had one shit-storm after the other, and it must be nauseating to kiss goodbye to your £450,000 a year salary before you’ve even upgraded your mobile phone contract. His appearance just before his resignation on Radio 4’s Today programme, however, in which John Humphrys interviewed him in the manner of a cruel schoolboy stabbing a writhing fish in a bucket, was uncomfortable to say the least: “Did you see the film the night it was broadcast?” “No, I was out”. “Did you read Guardian’s front page yesterday?” “No, I was giving a speech”. Amidst the stuttering and spluttering, Humphrys pinned down Entwistle to such a degree that –rightly or wrongly- he came across as absent and incompetent.

I have a growing sense that the rest of the media are mirthlessly rubbing their hands together while watching the omnibenevolent BBC stumble and fall, get up, shoot itself in the foot, and then fall over again. The BBC are always the impeccable good guys, the license-fee kingpins who perennially toe the line and hold everyone else to account, and those who were live-streamed on the BBC website squirming in their Leveson chairs are probably relishing even slightly the thought of Newsnight et al getting a dose of castigating headlines and glaring scrutiny.

Incidentally it’s been quite interesting, if not bizarre, to see the BBC adamantly play out its accountability virtue in a kind of twisted labyrinthine pseudo-parodying meta-journalism. There were Jimmy Savile’s sexual abuses at the BBC, which the BBC reported on from outside the BBC, with archive footage obtained from the BBC, and questions over whether the BBC was right to allow such practices at the BBC. Then BBC’s Newsnight programme was outed for not airing an investigation into Jimmy Savile’s abuses at the BBC because the BBC was airing a tribute programme to him at the time. BBC Newsnight reporters criticised their BBC Newsnight editor Peter Rippon who then stepped down, before BBC veteran John Simpson waded in to say the BBC was facing its ‘worst crisis’ in fifty years. BBC’s Panorama then investigated BBC’s Newsnight, and then BBC’s Newsnight jumped the gun and decided they’d better broadcast something, so they put out a programme which falsely implicated Tory peer Lord McAlpine in child sexual abuse. The victim of the abuse then appeared on BBC news to say he’d got it wrong, so BBC Newsnight was back in the slaughterhouse. BBC Director General George Entwhistle then gave that fist-eating interview on BBC’s Today before announcing his resignation from the BBC on the BBC news channel.

What next for the great British Broadcasting Corporation? I predict that this car crash will play out, more heads will roll and the internal and external torrent of frenzied accusations will inevitably dry to a trickle. But I think it’s important to remember that the BBC has produced excellent journalism, and in the scheme of things, a couple of (albeit very) bad decisions on Newsnight don’t constitute the abolishment of the programme or of the BBC’s entire ninety-year old reputation. Compared with the nebulous virtue of print media, Newsnight made journalistic and editorial errors while newspapers involved with the hacking scandal made moral ones.

Savile must be turning in his grave, but only to light up a cigar and have a chuckle at it all…


Quotes of the Week

©Alexander Millar

  • “This is the right decision for Scotland but it’s also right for the United Kingdom that there is going to be one single simple straightforward question about whether Scotland wants to stay in the United Kingdom or separate itself”
    -PM David Cameron in a Telegraph video on the day of the signing of the agreement which will allow Edinburgh to hold a referendum on Scotland’s independence – 15th October 2012


  • “With men in the media reporting on men in Parliament, there is a double whammy”
    -Labour’s Harriet Harman as quoted in the Guardian in a report on the under-representation of women in the media – 15th October 2012


  • “Justice has been done and this shows that the US does not control the UK justice system. We have had great support, including from the media, and this decision has saved my son’s life”
    -Janis Sharp, the mother of Gary McKinnon, the Asperger’s sufferer who was spared extradition to the US for hacking into Pentagon computers ten years ago, as reported in the Evening Standard – 16th October 2012


  • “Now she is amongst us, our thoughts are even more with her and her family after this criminal attack”
    -Farooq Murad of the Muslim Council of Britain on the Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai who was shot by the Taliban and is now being treated in a hospital in Birmingham, as reported in the i paper – 17th October 2012



The Biggest Winner was British Spirit

Before the 2012 London Games, patriotism was a bit dead in the water: the England flag was simply the football hooligan’s accessory of choice and the Union Jack a nineties throwback.

There was all the rain, the moaning, the economy, the sense of disparity and even despair for the notion that this country was just a bit…crap. We’d had our glory years, and all that was left was a distinct lack of community, positivity, inclusivity.

After a customary pessimistic build-up to the Games, complete with looming grey clouds and predictions of traffic Armageddon, we were set for a lukewarm Olympics.

And then suddenly, it was amazing. Danny Boyle’s redolently nostalgic phantasmagoria of an opening ceremony smacked the whole country and indeed the whole world in the face to remind us just what’s so good about the United Kingdom.

From here, the atmosphere snowballed, and then bouldered, and never really stopped.
Mo Farah smashed the 10,000m, Jessica Ennis actually did live up to the incredible hype, and Andy Murray beat Roger Federer to win the gold at Wimbledon.

The sporting victories of the British athletes, as well as the Games Volunteers, the thousands of spectators and the rallying spirit of the public all melted down and bubbled together into a redefined sense of who we were as a country, and a natural pride which came with it.

Since the Games I’ve seen a few more Union Jacks dotted around the country- a flag at a festival, on a bag in the street- and while it may be fashionably British to grumble a bit and pretend I don’t care, I must admit it’s nice to see a bit of added red, white and blue.