The present crisis at the BBC is probably more serious than any in its history. Even the “honourable” departure of “Incurious George” Enwistle has turned into a fiasco, what with the indefensible £450,000 payoff after 53 days in the job. More heads seem certain to roll, including the scratch team at Newsnight responsible for elementary journalistic errors that would have embarrassed a student newspaper, and (if the gloating Murdoch press has its way) the Corporation’s chairman Chris Patton.
In this febrile atmosphere, two essential points need to be constantly bourne in mind:
1/ It was John Humphrys’ merciless interrogation of Entwistle on the Today programme that played a big part in bringing matters to a head and effectively forced the wretched man’s resignation. What other media organisation would allow one of its jounalists to publicly humiliate the boss in that way? Can you imagine such a thing happening in, say, News Corp?
2/ The crucial matter remains child abuse, and the large number of victims who dare not come forward, or who are not believed when they do. The loathsome David Mellor’s description of Steve Messham (an unreliable witness, for sure, but most certainly a genuine victim) as a “weirdo” shows the degree of prejudice and ruling-class closing of ranks, that victims are often up against. It’s come to something when it takes another Tory, the former children’s minister Tim Loughton, to point out (in today’s Guardian) what should be obvious: “We’re forgetting that this whole issue is not about management of the BBC, it’s not about the Leveson inquiry, and it’s not about celebrities and politicians. It’s about the fact that a lot of children have been abused over many years and many of them have never had their stories believed or investigated.”
Hear, bloody hear.