I am not sure what the current chaos in the BBC proves. No news organisation likes being the story. Sky News looked at times………extremely uncomfortable …when reporting on the Phone Hacking Scandal.
And the BBC has at times looked uncomfortable with the way the BBC has handled the Savile Story.
This culminated last night with “Panorama” (BBC1 10.35pm) investigating the decision by “Newsnight” to spike the Jimmy Savile investigation in November 2011. Meanwhile “Newsnight” (BBC2 10.30pm) was leading on the “Panorama” story………with a very unhappy looking Jeremy Paxman (who volunteered the information that not all “Newsnight” people had even been aware of the “Savile” story.
I do not really want to re-hash the current state of play in the “Savile” story……….in this Blog I am really trying to get at whats going on in the BBC.
We get a little insight into how a “newsroom” works. November 2011….The reporter is Liz McKean. Her producer is Merrion Jones. They are working on a story that Jimmy Savile, recently deceased was a paedophile. Its explosive stuff. One of the BBCs stars in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s. A harmless but self-publicising eccentric ….Britain’s favourite uncle.
The Newsnight Editor is Peter Rippon. He gives the go ahead to transmit. But then re-considers. He himself has seemingly reported to his own bosses the Deputy Director of News and the Director of News. He spikes the story.
Meanwhile the Director of News has a ten second conversation with George Entwistle Head of BBC1 and tells him Newsnight are investigating Savile and he might want to re-consider a series of gushing tributes in the Christmas schedules. Entwistle asks no questions. The “Newsnight” story is spiked and the tributes go ahead.
And all is blown apart by the exposure of Savile by……….ITV. This creates a firestorm and a blog by Peter Rippon explains the decision was based on editorial reasons. And the BBC Director General goes with this version of events. Unfortunately the new BBC Director General is the same George Entwistle who asked nothing back in November last year. But the information in Rippon’s blog was lacking in “accuracy and honesty” (as Entwistle told the House of Commons Select Committee today). But the BBC held the “Rippon line for two weeks.
It looks bad……very bad. But yet the BBC deserves a lot of credit for investigating itself. Liz McKean and Merrion Jones were interviewees on “Panorama”……whistle-blowing their own employer “Newsnight”. And BBC News presenters (like Jon Sopel and correspondents like Norman Smith and Nick Higham) casually talk about “Peter”, “George” and the rest of the cast. Indeed Jon Sopel made the point that the Director of BBC News (her name is Helen Boaden) should perhaps make a statement clarifying what she knew in November last year.
Yes BBC deserves credit for how it is dealing with the NEWS aspect……..but there is an uncomfortable feeling that these are people who know each other and have in some cases (good and bad) “History”.