The BBC at the Crossroads

The BBC is in crisis on two fronts.

Its image is being badly tarnished and its credibility is in question. The sacred cow is less sanctimonious than we were led to believe, and is found wanting in its internal policy.

Admittedly the corporation’s immense size does not help matters, but its service to the public is so varied as to warrant closer control from within and more accountability than at present.

The majority of its programmes mirror a great degree of excellence and reaffirms the Beeb’s indispensability to the literacy and general knowledge of the nation. And, despite the pickle it finds itself in at the moment, its independence must remain intact.

That is not to say that reforms in some areas are not needed. In fact, they are long overdue.

The Jimmy Savile debacle might prove more entrenched than we thought and not an isolated case, but possibly one of many that the current police investigation is likely to unearth.

But what I find more disturbing is the likes of Mark Thompson, the former Director General of the BBC, when they assume a moral stance as he did to block a Gaza charitable appeal by the BBC in January 2009 – claiming that impartiality would be seriously compromised if such an appeal were to be broadcast. The outcry that followed did little to convince him and he remained obstinate to the very end, despite the pressing humanitarian issues involved.

Hypocrisy manifested its ugly face then and is now replicated when he claims no knowledge whatsoever of the Savile affair during his long tenure in office.

To make matters worse still Lord Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong and now part-time chairman of the BBC Trust, has been slow to react. He has compounded this failure by putting the culture secretary Maria Miller in her place for expressing concern at the scandalous run of events – and to top it all for bad judgement, his appointment of George Entwistle as his servile consignee to appear before a Parliamentary Select Committee was the mother of all disasters. Entwistle’s performance was a total embarrassment to the BBC.

If this is the calibre of man to do justice to the corporation then its whole structure should be looked at – not in a coup-d’oeil, but much more deeply than we dare contemplate.

As a great supporter of the BBC I hope better men than the useless Entwistle will be asked to guide it to prodigious heights and cleanse it from the rot of this callous scandal.

It is an opportunity that should not be missed.

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