For the uninitiated, bourach is a Scots word which means a right old mess, which I think is a fair term to describe what’s been going on at the BBC. However, I’m not so sure it deserves quite as much opprobrium as is being currently heaped upon it.
Ok, the Newsnight team screwed up, big time and exruciatingly, not once but twice. They had plenty evidence about one active paedophile the BBC employed and they didn’t broadcast it. They left it to another channel, ITV, to break the Jimmy Savile story almost a year later. Newsnight got a pasting for it and there are many issues around Jimmy Savile the BBC has still to account for. So, when they had an interview making allegations about an unnamed senior Tory carrying out abuse, they really wouldn’t have wanted to repeat that error. What they failed to do, sadly, was the most basic of due diligence. Showing Steve Messham a picture of Lord McAlpine could have saved a lot of bother. There was definite incompetence there, but it is far from being the most egregious action on the part of a media organisation that we’ve seen recently.
I was really sad to see former Director General George Entwistle tender his inevitable resignation last night. It may have been inevitable, but only because the rest of the media, owned by powerful corporations who don’t like our high quality public service broadcaster or the public funds it receives, would have kept kicking him until he did.
I have a huge amount of sympathy for Entwistle, much more than I have (none) for James Murdoch who, correct me if I’m wrong, still has a job despite seemingly knowing nothing that was going on in the organisation he was responsible for. And don’t get me started on Jeremy Hunt.
Newsnight may have been stupid, but that’s nothing compared to the brazen irresponsibility of Philip Schofield the other day. Ambushing the Prime Minister in the way he did on live TV, handing over a card with names of people who were the subject of gossip on the internet, was completely unacceptable. I am actually willing to forgive him this one monumental muck up and don’t want to see his successful broadcasting career ended because of it, but I want to know that he’s learned his lesson. I want an apology from him for more than the names on that card being visible. Treating internet gossip as a reliable news source is just wrong.
What worries me most is that those who were guilty of the abuse – and there is no doubt that abuse took place – might get away with it because they’ve been given a bit of a smokescreen.The main issue here is that vulnerable children were harmed while in the care of the state and have not been listened to when they tried to report that harm. The appropriate authorities need to get to the root of what happened there and make amends to the victims.
BBC news is not what it used to be, that’s certainly true. We could see that from the US election coverage the other night when it took the BBC far too long to report the results. I ended up watching CNN instead. However, you only have to look at Fox News to see how lucky we are to have the BBC. Auntie may sometimes be a bit late with the news, but at least what you get is reasonably impartial and accurate.
There may well have been a bourach in Shepherd’s Bush, but we have to be wise to the political motivations of those who are throwing the most muck at the BBC. The broadcaster itself will have to make sure that it’s proportionate in the action it takes. If they end up putting loads of resources into breathing down the neck of every single journalist, it’s going to take funding away from the other excellent quality programming they produce across drama, sport, children’s stuff, documentaries, entertainment and music.