Opinion: Lord Patten should not go

Lord PattenVultures are circling above Lord Patten’s head – he must not resign.

George Entwistle may or may not have made a good director general of the BBC. He took over from the maverick Mark Thompson, who had wreaked havoc across the BBC with his Delivering Quality First cuts. Entwistle might just have provided a steady pair of hands to guide the BBC and rebuild its confidence after the Thompson era. But coping with the Savile crisis proved beyond him and his fate became inevitable.

Now vultures are circling above Lord Patten’s head. As chairman of the BBC Trust, Patten is the man that appointed Entwistle and gave him an eye-boggling payoff for failing to do the job. These errors are excuse enough for demanding his resignation, but there are important reasons why Chris Patten should be allowed to ride out the storm.

Patten is not a BBC man. He is a former politician and astute diplomat. From my perspective, he showed his mettle during the campaign to save BBC local radio last year. Mark Thompson’s proposal for swingeing cuts to local broadcasting was met with a storm of protest from listeners and MPs, including from Lib Dem president Tim Farron, an ardent supporter of BBC Radio Cumbria. But despite their anger, listeners struggled to get their get their voice heard.

The BBC Trust showed itself to be inept at communication and engagement. The BBC’s chief operating officer Caroline Thomson and news chief Helen Boaden revealed themselves to be disinterested in what happened to local radio. Coverage of the cuts on local radio itself was tightly controlled and constrained. The manager of local radio, David Holdsworth, even boasted that 20% cuts would improve local radio.

The BBC was given a rough ride over the cuts – a testimony to the thousands of listeners that protested, the MPs that spoke up in the Commons, and local radio teams that got debate going despite the reluctance of their bosses. It is also testimony to the man that got listeners’ voices heard and the man who listened to those voices.

The man who got listeners’ voices heard was Roger Bolton, the droll, witty presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Feedback. His broadcasts ensured that the concerns of local radio supporters were heard deep within the management bunker at Broadcasting House.

The man who listened was Chris Patten. He showed that he understands that BBC local radio is a champion of our local communities; that it cares for us and helps our communities care for themselves. He knows that when things go wrong in a crisis, local radio helps communities cope, cry and recover. He ordered the cuts to be halved.

Lord Patten has consistently shown sensitivity to the needs of audiences rather than an obsession with ratings. He has championed the BBC’s role as a beacon of quality and standards at the centre of UK cultural life. If he is forced to go by the media hue and cry the BBC be rudderless. It will also lose the best champion it has of those core values that too many director generals have forgotten.

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem living in Shropshire, and a former editor for Lib Dem Voice

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.
Advert

2 Comments

  • Peter Hayes 13th Nov '12 - 4:04pm

    The point about local radio is so true. Whilst London media were going on about how bad the Gloucestershire floods were it was local radio who told us what roads were passable and where to collect bottled water.

  • Old Codger Chris 14th Nov '12 - 12:49pm

    Sorry but Patten must go. And so must others – to save the BBC.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarCaron Lindsay 27th Aug - 10:41am
    Although, Hireton, there is a main opposition party whose leader gets the lion's share of questions at FMQs.
  • User AvatarPeter Parsons 27th Aug - 10:41am
    The airline comparison has flaw. Airplanes only have slots at takeoff and landing. Trains have slots for the whole of a journey due to being...
  • User AvatarPeter Parsons 27th Aug - 10:41am
    @Graham Evans "“If the train I planned to catch is delayed or cancelled I simply want to be able get on the next one on...
  • User AvatarHireton 27th Aug - 10:36am
    @lorenzo cherin There is no 'official opposition' in Scotland, that is a quaint tradition of Westminster.
  • User AvatarTony Dawson 27th Aug - 10:16am
    What i would do if I were Mayor of Nice would be to get a group of nice women in headscarfs to demonstrate/distribute leaflets with...
  • User AvatarTony Dawson 27th Aug - 10:11am
    I feel that fat guys on all Europe's beaches (and those in the UK, Donald!) in over-tight Speedos should all be forced to wear burkinis...