TNI Bureau: Last two months came as double whammy for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), arguably the world’s greatest broadcast news organization. In early October, it was discovered that a Newsnight investigation to allegations of sexual abuse by the late Jimmy Savile was shelved shortly before it was due to be broadcast.
Jimmy Savile was a celebrated BBC television presenter who had allegedly abused under-age girls and boys. Soon after the allegations were made public, an inquiry began into the culture and practices at the BBC. The police, currently, are investigating allegations that Savile abused some 300 children over a 40-year period. This incident has put a lot of questions on the adequacy of child protection and whistle-blowing policies at the corporation.
In the aftermath of the Jimmy Savile Scandal, Newsnight investigated the North Wales child abuse scandal and wrongly implicated Lord McAlpine in a botched investigation. This led to severe criticism of editorial standards at the BBC. Lord McAlpine, about whom wrong claims were made, sued BBC and settled for 185,000 pounds. Later the Director-General of the corporation, George Entwistle resigned.
After George Entwistle’s 54-day tumultuous stint as the DG, Tony Hall, the chief executive of the Royal Opera House and the BBC’s former director of news, has been appointed the corporation’s new director-general. The BBC itself has set up several inquiries in the wake of above scandals. Currently, George Entwistle is facing an inquiry into his handling of Newsnight’s aborted investigation of Jimmy Savile.
Most of the BBC’s problems are self-inflicted. On one side, it has been increasing the salaries of top management and on the other it has been slashing the budget for the people who actually report and put the news on the air. Production of the wrong story about Lord McAlpine had been outsourced to a private news organization as a cost saving measure resulting into sloppy journalism. The organizational structure is bogged down with too many layers thereby making editorial guidance difficult.
All these have adversely affected the BBC’s credibility among viewers. A very recent survey of 1000 British adults, found out that only 45% agreed that the corporation was trustworthy. Similar study conducted in 2009 had 62% considering the BBC trustworthy. Nearly two-third of people who took part in the survey agreed that the BBC’s reputation had suffered enormous damage due to recent controversies.
BBC journalism has long been trusted and respected all across the world. The recent sad chain of incidents has dented its reputation and brand equity. We all make mistakes. But what we do when they happen is what defines us. Journalism is a noble profession where making mistakes is possible but hiding one or repeating the old one is shameless.