Sunday, 11 November 2012

Another BBC own goal - Entwhistle quits

News that the BBC's top man has resigned after it emerged the Newsnight story over the Bryn Estyn child abuse is no surprise. If there was a competition for "man who best resembles a rabbit caught in the headlights", George Entwhistle would have walked it.
 After six weeks in post he failed miserably to convince people he was in charge on two key elements that rose from the Jimmy Savile debacle.

Neither were problems of his own direct making. The BBC, including his predecessor, failed to adequately investigate Savile's abuse during his time at the Corporation and - crucially - failed to broadcast a Newsnight investigation into the allegations against the presenter. The story switched from being one about Saville's paedophiliac abuse to "BBC cover-up" with the Daily Mail and Murdoch's stable of papers delighting in attacking the Beeb.

The second problem was, I suspect, caused by Newsnight trying to make amends and ignoring its own producer guidelines in broadcasting a sensational story that resurrected the North Wales child abuse scandal and implicated a senior Tory from the Thatcher era. Given the nature of the allegation and the fact that the senior Tory was being named on various websites, it's inconceivable that the programme didn't contact the Tory in question - who we now know is Lord McAlpine - for a response. Even if they didn't name him - as hinted by the programme makers prior to broadcast - then it should have covered bases because this was an accusation made by one person on camera, Steven Messham.

Things started to unravel with a Guardian investigation, which revealed that Keith Gregory (another abused boy from Bryn Estyn) did not believe it was Lord McAlpine but his cousin Jimmy McAlpine, who lived at Gethyn Hall near Marchwiel until his death in 1991. As the Guardian reveals, this mistaken identity had been tackled in the Waterhouse "Lost in Care" report.

This presents problems not just for Messham and the BBC but for a host of other people who tweeted and commented. George Monbiot has apologised for innuendo and it'll be interesting to see what Susan Elan Jones (MP for Clwyd South) has to say after she made a direct link between the unnamed paedophile and a Tory in the House of Lords.

Back at the BBC, it's another own goal but this is not the BBC in terminal crisis, although that may be the case with Newsnight.

And unfortunately, the fiasco has distracted people from the real culprits in this whole story - the paedophiles who have still not been charged for their part in the abuse here in North Wales. This sorry episode will set back those who are trying to find the truth and make other victims far less likely to speak out. It's all the more important for this investigation to continue and for the media to continue asking questions, but let's have a little less of Philip Schofield-style stunts and more C4 News digging.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Won't be sad to see the BBC go.

Their 'news' coverage over the summer with the Jubilee and deliberate policy in Welsh of avoiding reporting on the independence movements across Europe makes the corporation something we can live without.

The most galling thing is that they've now taken over S4C. Is S4C safe in their hands? And, it S4C was essentially taken over by another corporation because of bad management (and Brit politics) why isn't BBC? One rule for Welshies another for the English establishment.