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

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Web / Digital Analyst - SiteCatalyst or Google Analytics

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Data Scientist

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A data analytics are currently looking t...

Graduate Sales Executive

17.5k + Commission (£18.5k after probation period): ESI Media: You will be res...

PPC Account Managers

£25k - £30k (DOE): Guru Careers: Two expert PPC Account Managers are needed to...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game