Question now is where the buck will stop

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The Independent Online

So the scandal of "Crowngate" has done for Peter Fincham after all, though it was not just a matter of Her Majesty pointing to the BBC1 Controller and saying: "Off with his head."

The reasons for his departure owed much to the beleaguered state of the BBC itself and Fincham's own position within an organisation in crisis. A smooth-dressing outsider, he has made a lot of money from the commercial sector, from whence the ill-fated programme, A Year With the Queen, was commissioned.

His track record before he joined BBC1 in 2005 was in hits such as Never Mind The Buzzcocks and Grand Designs and, while he has improved BBC1's standing, his specialty is entertainment rather than news.

Yesterday's report dissecting the inept handling by the BBC of a sorry episode in its history found the misrepresentation of the Queen was a "deliberate" act by Stephen Lambert, the chief creative officer of RDF Media, who has also quit. The corporation's subsequent trust in the film stemmed from a meeting between Lambert and a BBC executive producer who was impressed by what he called "amazing stuff" in RDF's footage. Mr Fincham simply believed him.

After the storm broke the controller tried to ride it out, waiting to "check the temperature of the story" before admitting the BBC's error, allowing the public to be further misled. The BBC1 team operated "in a bubble".

The question is: should they have? Mr Fincham, the report says, briefed the BBC's all-powerful director of television, Jana Bennett, ringing her and sending her an email, which she did not read. Neither Ms Bennett nor Mr Fincham alerted the director general, Mark Thompson, in spite of what the report's author Will Wyatt terms a "dire need for a crisis meeting" at a higher level. This further lapse resulted, incredibly, in BBC News continuing to run with the false story of the Queen's walkout.

"Crowngate" was a scandal but only one of many to have beset the television industry this year. The BBC has seen cherished names such as Blue Peter, Comic Relief and Children In Need tainted by the stain of fakery. Until now only low-ranking staff have walked the plank. With Mr Fincham's resignation, the BBC has offered up a bigger sacrifice but some will ask whether, after the exposure of systemic failings, others more senior than him should also be considering their positions.