Leading article: A damaging sense of insecurity

According to the New Statesman, the corporation's chairman, Michael Grade, had called around a dozen senior executives, demanding that Mr Humphrys be dismissed for an irreverent after-dinner speech about politicians. In the event, the presenter received no more than a slap on the wrist - an unwarranted penalty for a non-offence, but this is another story. That a magazine report reopening the saga was judged to require such an instant rebuttal from the director general testifies to the persistence of distrust at every level.

We had hoped that, once the BBC chairman and director general had fallen on their swords over the Hutton inquiry, a judicious distance would be kept by both sides. The appointment of Michael Grade, regarded as sympathetic to the ethos and political independence of the BBC, was hailed as a sign that this was possible.

With licence negotiations in train and ministers, from the Prime Minister down, apparently still unhappy with what they regard as the BBC's insufficient deference to the Government, some defensiveness on the part of the corporation may be understandable. But it will do neither this respected broadcasting organisation nor the licence-payers any favours if this pervasive sense of insecurity is allowed to persist.