23 October 2012
Why didn’t George Entwistle say ‘I made a mistake in not monitoring the Savile story more closely. I apologise and I will clear up this mess’? He would have been in a far stronger position and is now bound to face severe criticism later; indeed, his job is risk.
Part of the problem here is to do with BBC culture. It is a special organisation, but, fatally, it has turned this specialness into a permanent protective posture. All the statements about Savile betray this. They are issued by people whose first thought is survival and second is for the protection of the BBC from outside examination and judgment. Reith would be horrified; if he were now in charge, there would be hell fire sermons being delivered daily. Reith’s founding motto for the BBC – educate, entertain and inform – really meant ‘do good, be good’, not ‘cover thine ass’.
In a larger context, I strongly suspect they are victims of inane management culture – specifically the black art of damage limitation. Usually, as in this case, damage cannot be limited and the only sane strategy is confession of failure. In fact, confession of error, failure, incompetence should be normal in any organisation, How else can they expect to improve? Regular confessions would also get rid of the present absurd state of affairs where every slip leads to calls for ‘heads to roll’, resignation and so on.
Now, I suspect, Entwistle’s job hangs by a thread and the BBC’s self-protective culture has made it more vulnerable than ever. That’s one of the interesting things about big management ideas – they are always wrong but, by the time it becomes apparent, the kids that thought them up have moved on.