Earlier this evening, BBC Director-General George Entwistle resigned from his post with immediate effect, bring to an end a turbulent 54 days in charge of Britain’s flagship broadcaster. Crisis most certainly not averted.
I’ve always liked Entwistle – I thought he was a very noble individual who worked wonders at BBC Vision, and was most certainly the right man to take on the esteemed role of Director-General, or as Entwistle himself continually refers to it as, ‘Editor-in-Chief’. His ability to look forward and rejuvenate a corporation very slowly trudging into the 21st-century enabled him to stamp his mark on the BBC, even very early on in his tenure at Vision. iPlayer? Yep, you’ve found the guy.
However, he walked into the job in early September and there was a storm brewing. A rather large one. As I’ve said previously, I won’t go into detail into the likes of the Jimmy Savile allegations, nor the care home abuse scandal slowly unfurling, because this would just become another piece thrown onto the pile of articles written about these incidents. However, it was the latter story that forced Entwistle’s hand into signing that resignation letter.
I feel very, very sorry for George Entwistle. He wasn’t given an opportunity to shape the organisation into the way he foresaw it travelling. He couldn’t make substantial changes in his short time as DG because of the various scandals being uncovered. He spent more time in front of the cameras attempting to defend himself and his team than in his office doing the job he was tasked to do. And many ganged up on him because they didn’t like his handling of the situations, and his part in the whole Newsnight scandal.
Entwistle knew what had to happen to fix the corporation’s overgrown and ridiculously organised News department, and unfortunately, it’s come back to bite him. The department is bloated and needs substantial change, which Entwistle knew. He lost the newsroom, and therefore was not only let down by his staff, but heads were turned and he has been dealt the final blow.
Questions will continue to be asked, just like they have been previously. Entwistle lost the trust of his colleagues. Robert Peston, a senior employee, retweeted this earlier, showing his views on the matter:
Why pick someone so inexperienced+naive as CEO of a vast business in the public eye?Did Patten really want to be BBC’s public face himself?
— matthew oakeshott (@oakeshottm) November 10, 2012
Jeremy Paxman, presenter of Newsnight and also a long-time employee of the BBC, released a statement earlier, showing not all have felt the same. He said this about Entwistle’s departure:
He has been brought low by cowards and incompetents.
Some also believe Lord Patten, Chairman of the BBC Trust, should leave too, due to his choice in Entwistle originally, and the poor duty of care shown towards the license fee payers. It could force a massive shake up into how the BBC works.
Entwistle can leave Broadcasting House this evening knowing he has done his best in the job, despite all allegations. He will be slammed in every newspaper, and his own corporation will eventually attempt to eradicate this short period from its history. But I hope that he isn’t the only one forced out.
Nobody wants to see anyone lose a job – I hate the idea of calling upon an organisation to sack someone because they are a high-profile individual. I can only think of one job in which there is such a high-pressure environment that at times, all people involved with the club call for your head on a plate, and that is the job of a football manager. Entwistle has taken one for the team, and those on the Executive Board of the BBC, and involved in the likes of the Trust and the management will be quaking in their boots, hoping that’s that. But in reality, I highly doubt it will be.
Most bookmakers already have Caroline Thomson, former Chief Operating Officer of the BBC, as favourite for the role of Director-General. She left in September upon Entwistle’s appointment, as he streamlined high-level management in an attempt to make it easier to govern. Most believe she’ll come back and become the first female DG at the second attempt – she was highly tipped to take the role before Entwistle was appointed, too.
However, if those involved at Newsnight, BBC News, and the News department, manage to come out unscathed, I will be flabbergasted. Peter Rippon, Editor of Newsnight, has already ‘stepped aside’ because of the issues surrounding the Jimmy Savile allegations, but he has had a direct link to the programmes being created, broadcasted, dropped, and stopped from reaching the public eye.
Helen Boaden is Director of BBC News and sits on the Executive Board, but the show is called Newsnight, and falls into the News department. If Entwistle, the highest man in the corporation, feels he should resign to protect the integrity of the BBC, should Boaden not do the same?
Should Adrian Van Claveran keep his job at the BBC? As Controller of Radio Five Live, he was tasked with looking after Newsnight whilst Rippon was ‘stepping aside’, and was in charge when the North Wales care home scandal broke. Does the buck stop with him too?
And finally, if Newsnight and the BBC continue to work in conjunction with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, they should hang their heads in shame. I’m all for investigative journalism, but the BIJ have done more harm than good over the previous few weeks.
Major change is needed at the BBC not only to pull it out of this ongoing crisis, but to bring it into the 21st century, and to streamline the unbelievable layers of management and bureaucracy throughout the corporation. It will take a lot of time to fix and to regain the trust of the public. Nobody knows what will happen next. But one thing is for certain…
The next Director-General has a role like no other: to save the BBC’s reputation.