Just when you hoped it couldn't get worse, the BBC's crisis just did. It's new Director General, hit by two scandals since he arrived on 17 September, has resigned.
The first scandal was inherited - dating back decades; but the second one,
a badly misjudged editorial decision, was ultimately his responsibility
as BBC Editor in Chief. An honourable man, he decided to resign.
This leaves the BBC and the BBC Trust in quintuple trouble.
The BBC has lost its DG partly as a result of poor crisis management which has left it rudderless in a hurricane. Its many enemies will be rejoicing.
hurricane is also a sign of failed crisis strategy. That reflects
badly on the BBC. It ought to understand crises since it analyses the crises of others daily. But it's not the only
organisation that routinely deals with the crises of others but turns
out to be unable to handle a crisis about itself.
Third, the BBC now has only an acting DG, the no doubt talented Tim Davie.
His last role was head of Audio and Music. Leaving aside the problems
of being an Acting DG parachuted into a crisis, he appears to have an
English degree and a career spanning brands, marketing, music and drama -
but never to have been in charge of news. That isn't an obvious
pedigree for an Editor in Chief taking office during a potentially
existential maelstrom unless it partly reflects Tony Hayward's comment that he needed an acting degree to handle the Deepwater Horizon crisis. I wish him good luck, excellent judgement and a solid constitution.
Fourth, the DG's manner during both crises, particularly the second, suggests that the he may have been an example of the Peter Principle and promoted one level beyond his natural level of competence.
If so that explains the personal tragedy for the now ex-DG; but it has also put in
question the judgement and reputation of the BBC Trust as well as the
BBC. The Trust appointed him.
And fifth, there is of course the question of the degree to which the BBC's organisation is, to use a phrase the BBC often uses, fit for purpose. The structure that the DG inherited clearly did not serve him well. Lord Patten seems to accept that the organisation needs a "radical structural overhaul". That may well be part of the problem - an easy part to solve. But to judge by the evidence of 'events' so far it's far from all that's needed.
As I've written before,
the BBC must find and fix the fundamentals. Whatever the
constitutional niceties, Lord Patten will have to take the
lead in these exceptional circumstances. He has every incentive to do so since his personal reputation is now at risk.
But he won't succed in fixing the fundamentals unless he finds them all. Fast and systematically. As I've also written before, the current enquiries won't find them.
the BBC doesn't find the fundamentals, it can't fix them.
Which will leave the BBC teetering on a cliff edge, no place to
leave the nation's favourite Auntie. The BBC is much too important an institution to be allowed to collapse or be dismembered.
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