Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The BBC and newsnight

Following the news these past few weeks, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the BBC's main and only responsibility was to broadcast newsnight. After all, there has been much hounding of recent and less recents DGs for their lack of knowledge in newsnight's particular investigations.

Should the DG be aware of newsnight's particular investigations? Is the DG's job really to micro manage to such an extent, or is it to appoint responsible people who will, if necessary, report up to him? Now, of course, an argument could be made that perhaps the most recent newsnight investigation should have been fed to the DG. Perhaps it should.

But Entwhistle had been in the job for less than two months. He was still establishing himself. The nominal heads of newsnight were actually not managing it at that point in time, thanks to the Saville debacle from earlier. Thew newsnight investigators were no doubt in a bit of a hard place: they had a strong accusation that a former public figure was a child abuser. Were they to ignore it, would the media perhaps have reacted exactly as badly as they did anyway? Yes, it was the testimony of one witness, and no-one thought to show said witness a photo of the man he was accusing but, to be clear, would you necessarily? If someone names a specific person your first thought may not be mistaken identity.

So Entwhistle resigned, and now some other news heads are resigning too. Perhaps this was necessary, although I don't think so; other media organisations have not behaved in this manner in the past. My big worry is that the BBC will do what it always does when it suffers a crisis: over compensate. Micro manage journalism to the point where nothing gets done. I hope not. For all the Murdoch press is braying for blood, the BBC is much more thna newsnight, and is a fantastic organisation. I don't want to see it silenced.