Birtism: What they say

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Alasdair Milne, director general of the BBC from 1982-7: 'From what I'm told he's (Birt) a rotten manager who is in danger of bringing the BBC to its knees . . . He is the most hated man in the BBC I have ever known . . . That is a major problem for a national institution if it's chief executive is totally unloved'

Bob Phillis, deputy director general: 'The BBC is not one man. It's history, tradition, values, and loyalty . . . All of the management team support John and the policies in place'

Mark Tully, India correspondent: 'Many of the staff feel that there is some sort of Big Brother watching them . . . Personality cults and too much power in one person's hands always weaken organisations . . . in the corporation today there are too many managers who appear to be saying John Birt is the BBC and the BBC is John Birt'

Robin Oakley political editor: 'I'm a little bit puzzled about some of the stuff I see about Big Brother sitting on your shoulder because it's no more than I ever had at the Times - no one tells me what to do'

Giles Oakley executive producer Open Space: 'Fear is rife in the BBC because people who venture forth with a dissenting voice are made to feel they will not prosper . . . I'm not the kind of person who is easily cowed, but I am more nervous now than I have ever been'

Rodney Baker-Bates, director of finance: 'The debate about Birtism has been conducted at a rather juvenile level. It's rather more important than the personalities involved. We're looking at fundamental changes in the BBC and in the broadcasting world as a whole'

Glynne Price former head of personnel for programme makers: 'The place is completely totalitarian and has an eastern European feel to it. It is obsessed with the way things are done rather than what is done.

It's become bureaucratised and centralised'

Polly Toynbee social affairs editor: 'In about 18 months' time, when some of these big glossy new drama series start coming out people will look back and say, well, that was what it was for. At the moment low ratings, bad morale, a terrible struggle to reorganise make it terribly hard to see what the gain is'

Anonymous senior radio producer in news and current affairs: 'The whole system has become less efficient because we now have enormous amounts of paperwork. We get edicts and memos all the time'

Martyn Lewis, presenter of the Nine O'Clock News: 'He (Birt) has established core standards that are going to be the mainstay of the corporation's journalism for years to come . . . In terms of bureaucracy, all I see when I look around the newsroom is really lean efficiency - I can only see one accountant'

Anonymous senior foreign news journalist: 'The fundamental contradiction of Birt is that he is constantly talking about the importance of experts, but has forced out anyone over 50 and replaced them with younger, cheaper and less experienced people'

Pamela Taylor director of corporate affairs: 'We believe there is a problem with communications with staff . . . it would seem to be an historical problem which we have identified . . . and intend to change. We are looking to devolve power to staff more than ever before'

Phillippa Giles producer in television drama serials: 'Changes had to be made, but it has come from the top down, rather than the other way round. They now have six months to try to sort things out'