I think it’s time for us all to lie down in a darkened room for a few hours with some smelling salts.
Newsnight made a mistake. It seems to have occurred because the replacement management structure (pending the Jimmy Savile enquiry) was rather weak. This mistake was in a similar league to the newspapers hounding the entirely innocent Chris Jeffries in Bristol, for which I don’t remember any resignations. Making inferences about the BBC management structure from the Newsnight/North Wales story is not really a valid exercise. The senior person who made the decision appears to have been the head of Radio Five Live (standing in for normal managers who were recused from the process because of the Savile enquiries).
The previous Newsnight mistake was to kill a story about Jimmy Savile. Doing so did not result in a single child being abused. No criminal charges will result because of this editorial decision, which is in sharp contrast to the News of the World hacking debacle.
Now we hear, surprise, surprise, that someone with a long career at the BBC, whose career exploded over this crisis, received a large pay-off. OK, that’s a valid subject for debate. Half of the pay off was contractual. The other half was supposed to be to pay George Entwhistle to co-operate with two enquiries. £225,000 to co-operate with two inquiries seems a bit steep. The BBC Trust’s generosity may spring from the fact that George Entwhistle’s resignation did not follow some egregious misdeed on his part.
But all this is a “catastrophe” in a similar way that it was a “catastrophe” to employ Michael Portillo to present “Great British Railway Journies”. No one has died. No one has committed a crime. Not one single child has been abused by Newsnight or the BBC management.
While all this rather exaggerated BBC bashing is going on, the whole subject of child abuse and the tragedy of the victims is taking a back seat.
* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist in Newbury and West Berkshire. He is Wednesday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Liberal Burblings.