Ian Burrell: The only transparency at the BBC is in the Pit

The BBC, we learned last week, was an organisation crawling with more sexual predators than we had previously thought. It was also, said an official report, a place gripped by an "undercurrent of fear", where bullied staff were afraid to speak out because they did not trust their managers.

For generations of university graduates in disciplines from literature and politics to science, a job at the BBC has been something to covet. It seems extraordinary that it could have turned rotten. How bad can it be, in a tough employment market, to be working for the greatest broadcaster in the world?

As licence-fee payers we all have a stake in ensuring that the BBC provides an environment where the highest quality programmes can be made. A culture of bullying and intimidation gets in the way of that process and means we are not getting value for our £145.50 a year. And we certainly do not want our money spent on the wages of the likes of Stuart Hall.

"Beast of the BBC" was the front page headline of Friday's Daily Mirror, following the presenter's admission that he abused 13 girls, one of them aged nine, at the height of his broadcasting career. Former colleagues now say he was habitually allowed to take young women into a medical room at the BBC.

So the Jimmy Savile scandal was no one-off. Other former BBC employees are on bail as Scotland Yard's Operation Yewtree continues probing historic allegations of sex abuse. This is not what the new director-general Tony Hall needs – the Savile saga was supposed to have been dealt with by the time he started work last month.

On Thursday, the BBC released the findings of a review headed by the barrister Dinah Rose QC designed to evaluate the current extent of bullying and sexual harassment in the organisation. The report spoke of "untouchable" BBC stars. "There is a perception that 'talent' are treated differently and don't have to adhere to the same rules because they wield power."

Staff were portrayed as being cowed by bullies. "Throughout our conversations we heard a strong undercurrent of fear; fear of speaking out, fear of reprisal, fear of losing your job, being made redundant, fear of becoming a victim…"

Working at the BBC is not mining coal. New Broadcasting House (NBH) is not an accident & emergency department. Indeed, within the cash-strapped media sector, the state-of the-art NBH is a £1bn glistening beacon of investment. BBC journalists have the most hi-tech newsroom in Europe. They can hold meetings in fashionably-designed booths and "huddle zones". For radio staff there is even a table football game to replicate the laid-back atmosphere you might find in an internet start-up.

I suspect some BBC managers rolled their eyes at the tales of misery that emerged in the Rose review. The BBC, we know, is brimming with highly intelligent and talented people, not all of whom can fully realise their ambitions. One manager told the inquiry of a brooding atmosphere of "quiet rioting" among staff. "There is often resistance, mistrust, abuse, rudeness and very defensive behaviour from those they manage," said the report. Some of those who have never worked outside the BBC might not realise how lucky they are.

But the unhappiness is real. The Rose review was based on the responses of 930 people who stepped forward to talk about harassment.

Symbolically, Liz MacKean, the Newsnight investigative journalist who worked so hard in vain to expose Savile, left the BBC last week. In a farewell tweet she wrote: "Set little store by dreams, but woke up dreaming I was driving at a wall unable to swerve. Last day at BBC! Sure it's a coincidence."

The glass-lined newsroom, shown at the start of every bulletin, isn't to the taste of all BBC journalists. They call it "The Pit". It is overlooked by a huge public gallery – designed to represent the BBC's transparency and special relationship with us licence fee payers. During one edition of the BBC News at One last month an inadvertent camera shot caught a tour party gawping down on the journalists below.

It is effectively a giant television set and the BBC deploys staff wearing headphones and monitoring the output. "They're shouting 'sit down', 'stop yawning' or 'put that sandwich down'," I am told.

Last month, a newsroom journalist was taken ill while the BBC News Channel was on air. Colleagues, who feared he was having a heart attack, called 999 and a paramedic arrived. Staff claim the medic was not allowed into the newsroom by BBC security – in case he walked into camera shot. BBC management denies this, saying the journalist recovered sufficiently quickly to be treated in the reception area.

The dispute reflects ongoing tensions. Of course, the BBC must implement painful budget cuts. But this organisation is not subject to the economic pressures faced by commercial media and its annual income is guaranteed. It shouldn't be like this.

We pay our licence fee for the content the BBC broadcasts – not to visit a public gallery and watch the staff going for each other's throats in the Pit.

A new example of meritocracy by the Middletons

Lord McAlpine, after being shamefully traduced by a combination of Newsnight innuendo and Twitter smears last autumn, returns to the media spotlight with an authored piece in Tatler, a homage to Margaret Thatcher. She was no snob, he informs the toff's bible, "merit, for her, was the only criterion."

The same magazine also carries a fawning tribute to "Mother of the Year" Carole Middleton, below, the woman who gave birth to the Queen-in-waiting and who "patently has a gift for brilliant parenting".

Yet Mrs Middleton's parenting seems to have gone awry, according to former Tatler editor Catherine Ostler, writing in the Daily Mail about the Duchess of Cambridge's brother James leaving a nightclub with television presenter Donna Air.

"Could Donna, daughter of a Newcastle builder and an HR manager, and with a child from a previous relationship, really have bagged the Duchess of Cambridge's baby brother?" asks a shocked Ms Ostler.

"What WILL Mummy Middleton have to say?" asks the stunned Mail headline writer.

A Geordie – heaven forbid! But wasn't Mummy Middleton supposed to be a great example of meritocracy, the smart former air hostess who made it in business, the one the Mail used to delight in calling "Doors to Manual"?

Twitter: @iburrell

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: 3D CAD Designer - Exhibition Stands

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Rapid growth has seen a number ...

Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

Recruitment Genius: Delegate Telesales Executive - OTE £21,000 uncapped

£16000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: High quality, dedicated Delegat...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor