Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Cover Ups Are Like Buses...

...you wait for ages for one and then... Hillsborough, the cyclist Lance Armstong and the current travails surrounding the BBC regarding Jimmy Savile. It was pretty clear from the outset that claims of decades of child abuse on BBC premises wasn't a story that was going to fulfil Alastair Campbell's 11-day rule, despite the BBC's very obvious dragging of heels on an investigation. And so it's proved.

Last night's Panorama programme was a much touted programme by BBC news all day of an investigation of itself. Among other details, it contained accusations that the BBC had a paedophile ring operating on its premises and, as Biased BBC notes; "it really doesn’t get much more serious than this".

Bristling from the News International phone hacking scandal, gloated over by the BBC, naturally the likes of the Sun are indulging now in a little schadenfreude

The BBC is obviously panicking, the scandal is set to taint a great deal of their output, particularly as Children in Need is coming up in a few weeks. Yet so far its response is found largely lacking. Its defence under such scrutiny, for its failures, is interesting as articulated by BBC Director General George Entwistle today:
[Mr Entwistle] added that the Panorama programme pointed to the BBC's health as a media organisation, rather than being a "symptom of chaos", because it showed the organisation's capacity to investigate itself. He said no other news organisation in the world would do this.
That the BBC think this is compliment to its organisation says a great deal about its mentality. I wonder if they would have applied the same logic to banks doing the same over libor rates, or MPs over expenses or News International over phone hacking?

And then, is having a 1 hour programme, moved to a much later slot outside prime time, to investigate another programme's axing of basically a 10 minute segment on decades of abuse that went undetected, really tantamount to 'investigating itself'?

The second part of the defence, one echoed by a recent disgraceful episode of Have I Got News For You was that it was partly at least the newspapers' fault:
Mr Entwistle points out that, for years, no other newspaper or broadcaster carried out an investigation into the Savile abuse allegations.
But they did or at least tried to, notably the News Of The World in 1971, and when the Sun attempted to print a picture proving that he visited the Jersey care home despite denials he threatened to sue.

And it's worth remember that this is the BBC making the accusations, which by its own admission (my emphasis):
...is the largest broadcast news operation in the world with more than 2,000 journalists and 44 newsgathering bureaux, 41 of which are overseas...has an annual budget of £350 million (2004/05).

BBC News is highly respected both in the UK and around the world, from the World Service which reaches a global audience of more than 150 million listeners with hundreds of bulletins in more than 40 languages every day, to the BBC's flagship television news programme The Ten O'Clock news programme on BBC One.

BBC News 24 was launched to be the best UK television news channel. We compete to be the best, with our emphasis being first-hand coverage of the latest breaking news with a commitment to depth, context and intelligent analysis.
And yet despite all that, it was unable for decades to expose a possible paedophile ring on its own premises even though rumours were constant and that it was an open secret. So what is the BBC criticising here - the failure of largely loss-making newspapers for not hacking Jimmy Savile's phone to get at the truth?

Revealingly the BBC's arguments are backed up by articles with a similar tone in the Guardian:
In fact the BBC has an entrenched need to kick itself hard when under editorial attack. Every senior editor has a gene that makes it a major worry if his or her programme isn't leading the media pack when the corporation has apparently done something wrong.
The noble reason for this acute and sometimes embarrassing navel- gazing is the need to protect the BBC's impartiality and integrity.
...and the Independent:
...only by further damaging its own reputation could the BBC even begin the process of mending it. Last night's film was grim and depressing – but it was also very difficult to think of any other organisation, media or otherwise, that would have exposed itself to such a painful self-laceration. It's not over by a long stretch but Panorama may have started to restore some trust.
Good ol' Auntie, nothing to see here...

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