Saturday, November 10, 2012

BSE at the BBC? Entwistle to follow Dyke's Footsteps?

Rather concerned that the BBC may use a blame someone else tactic in the latest crisis to hit the corporation. The Newsnight programme aired an apology. I thought Eddie Mair did an excellent job on what must have been one of the worst editions for the reputation of the programme. Will Entwistle do to Newsnight what Murdoch did to the News of the World? I think that would be a really stupid move if it happens.

Pity you can't embed directly from the BBC site, even for a situation like this.

The Guardian reported on Saturday that 

Entwistle also ordered an immediate suspension of all Newsnight investigations to assess editorial robustness and supervision, a suspension of all co-productions with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism across the BBC, and that Ken MacQuarrie, director of BBC Scotland, will write an urgent report, covering what happened on the investigation into the North Wales children's home scandal.

The bit about a suspension of all co-productions with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism across the BBC reeks of Crowngate , when a row brew up about editing of a promo on the documentary about the Queen. 

The Crowngate row in 2007 led to the resignation of BBC1 controller Peter Fincham and RDF creative director Stephen Lambert, after the latter admitted editing footage in a promo shown to journalists at a season launch to make it look like the Queen was storming out of a photoshoot when in fact she was walking in.

RDF made the edit and took part of the fall. They had made a creative error of judgement. They are one of the largest production companies in the UK. But the Bureau is something very different (from their submission to the Levenson enquiry).

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) is a not-for-profit news organisation launched in April 2010. It is the first not-for-profit body of investigative journalists of its kind in the UK and is funded by David Potter and The David and Elaine Potter Foundation. Grants to date have amounted to some £2m. The Bureau aims to bolster investigative journalism through its funding, but it also has a commercial element, in that the organisation is commissioned by broadcasters to turn some of its work into television reports and documentaries. The Bureau is paid to do this. The Bureau is run out of City University and part of the organisation’s ethos is to provide a hands-on training ground for journalism students, some of whom come from City University.

Lessons Learned
  • The responsibility for the errors of editorial judgement lie firmly with the BBC. As a news supplier and collaboration partner, the Bureau can only be held responsible for what it puts out on their own website. And they didn't name the Conservative Party member in question. They work on all kinds of stories, including an investigation on members of the House of Lords. The Chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten, is on that list.  Why is the BBC so publicly "suspending all coproductions" with them? The Bureau is being stupid in not coming out with a statement on their website. 
  • Entwistle is not getting the support from those just underneath him. He's performing very weakly. As the affair gets more complex, so others are clearly distancing themselves from him. He's delegated everything to other people, acting as a "super manager" instead of a clear leader and editor in chief. This is difficult to understand as he's been editor of Newsnight in 2001, starting work in his new post the day before the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon and Twin Towers in the USA. During his editorship, the show won five RTS Awards, including Best News Programme; as well as picking up a Broadcast Award and a Bafta nomination for Best News Programme. He's been the BBC's Controller of Knowledge Commissioning and the Controller of Editorial Standards for BBC Vision. Their policy of only giving interviews to BBC stations is beyond belief - Channel 4 News had much better credible coverage as a result. Wonder if he can last the weekend?

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