The BBC is a unique institution. If we lose it, or it changes significantly, e.g. it becomes a subscription service or is part funded by advertising, we as a nation would have cut off not only our nose to spite our face, but also our cheeks, lips, ears and every other recognisable feature.
The BBC does have enemies and it’s distressing to see the Corporation play into their hands over the recent Newsnight own goals. However, a bigger own goal is not to have more of a spine in the face of press and political criticism. Greg Dyke and Gavyn Davies were far too quick to resign after the Gilligan affair … especially as we now know that the “dodgy dossier” (the clue is in the name) was indeed “sexed up”.
It appeared that the Newsnight affair might claim both Director General and Chairman of the Trust in a similar hands-up, mea culpa, falling one one’s sword kind of way. The unfortunate George Entwistle, did go, but Chris Patten stayed … and quite right too.
Losing one’s job is so often a shallow solution, driven by the prospect of several days or even weeks of speculative copy. Who will the new man or woman be? Football managers live with it constantly. Would Mark Hughes leaving QPR, or Nigel Atkins being sacked by Southamptom really be the best solution for those two clubs?
Chris Patten is a very able man by all accounts. If there is a mess to clear up at the BBC (and I suspect it’s much less messy than the average teenager’s bedroom) he seems like a good person to do it. The papers and some politicians may want a scalp, but this is because it’s a symbol of activity. More often than not, it doesn’t really solve anything. The DG and Chairman have resigned, so everything’s alright. Er … no.
Clamours for resignation, or even better a sacking, now seem to be as regular an occurance as that other media staple, the apology. Whether it’s John Terry, Liverpool Football Club, the BBC, Andrew Mitchell, or Philip Schofield, we now require this act of contrition as an essential part of the rehabilitation process.
I think there could be a link with the rise and rise of the Twitterati. Pub conversation has moved to a global online forum and this has given people the idea that they and their views are more important than they really are. “Apologise,” demand the Tweeters. Who to? “To me … why? … because I can now go into (online) print and confront you as if I am a wounded party in this whole affair.”
Twitter and Facebook have changed the way people regard their status in society – everyone is Richard Littlejohn. It will be interesting to see how so the law adapts to apply some controls to what is essentially pub chat in a global pub. If Tweeters are prosecuted for libel (if that were even possible on such a scale), no doubt the free speech lobby would be up in arms- and they love being up in arms.