This week has been a very difficult one for the BBC. False allegations of paedophilia against a Conservative Party grandee have led to the resignation of the Director General, the possible demise of the flagship Newsnight programme, and the paying out of substantial libel damages.
Broadcasting has a huge impact on society; in the words of Andrew Greystone of the Church & Media Network “the events at the BBC, which were kicked-off not by malice amongst programme-makers but by the wickedness of a former presenter, will simply compound the much wider loss of public trust in national institutions.”
Our call for responsible broadcasting – which goes far beyond just that which reaches the airwaves - has never been more vital.
But we must defend that which is good. There are plenty who would dearly love to see the BBC seriously curtailed. Speaking at the Edinburgh Television Festival a few years ago James Murdoch attacked the BBC for ‘dumping state sponsored news’ into the market; of course the news the BBC is accused of dumping is exactly that for which News Corps would like to charge. Instead of ‘state sponsored’ news Mr Murdoch would like to see big business sponsored news
He said that the only ‘reliable, durable and perpetual guarantor of independence is profit’ – not quality, standards or diversity, just profit.
We should bear in mind that broadcasting has a far greater impact and influence on society than just profits.
We may not always agree with all the decisions made by the BBC, or the totality of its output, but it does aspire to the highest standards in journalism and its other productions. In many ways it sets the benchmark for other broadcasters. The resignation of George Entwistle is a recognition that those high standards have not been met and that they are, ultimately, more important than members of staff and individual programmes.
We are delighted that a formal independent investigation into culture and practices at the BBC is taking place and that important questions are being asked about the way the BBC is managed.
This evening the BBC will host its annual Children in Need telethon. Children in Need is the BBC’s corporate charity which works to help disadvantaged children in the UK and, since it’s inception in 1980, it has raised over £650 million. This BBC initiative is a laudable example of the impact and that influence that the institution and its output has on our society.