Keep some perspective, this Savile crisis isn't the worst to hit the BBC

Remember the dispute that laid bare decisions that took the country to war?

Share
Related Topics

Journalists are trained to have an ear for the soundbite, so it's not surprising that they may occasionally use one themselves. I have no doubt that John Simpson, pictured, the redoubtable television reporter, knew what he was doing when he said that the Jimmy Savile scandal was "the worst crisis I can remember in my nearly 50 years at the BBC".

Ever since, the saga has, routinely and unquestioningly, been referred to as the corporation's biggest trial for half a century. Really? Bigger than the crisis which resulted in the departure of both its chairman and the most popular and effective director-general in living memory? More profound than that which left the BBC on a collision course with the government of the day? Of wider importance than a dispute that laid bare decisions that took the country to war?

I don't want to make light of the revelations surrounding Savile, or of the journalistic failings that sparked the current furore, but we should get things in perspective. The BBC is one of a number of institutions facing serious questions, but it seems to be the only one seeking to come up with answers.

I don't see the prison service or the NHS opening themselves up to such rigorous internal and external scrutiny, and yet the evidence would suggest that Savile's abuse took place on their premises, too. The problem is that the BBC has ideological and commercial opponents. Also, it does seem to take a masochistic pleasure in examining its own entrails.

So, the other night, at the very same time, we had Panorama on Newsnight on BBC1, and Newsnight on Newsnight on BBC2. And there were accusations of internecine warfare when the radio presenter Victoria Derbyshire suggested that Peter Rippon, the Newsnight editor, had been hung out to dry by his bosses over what she termed "a poor editorial call".

It simply does not stand to reason that Rippon would have gone so cold, so quickly, on the Savile story unless he was being leant on

I have a good deal of sympathy with this. Having had some experience of an editor's chair myself, I interpret the chain of events leading up to the pulling of the Savile investigation as firmly indicative of pressure being exerted from above. It simply does not stand to reason that Rippon would have gone so cold, so quickly, on the Savile story unless he was being leant on.

The proclaimed culture of autonomy at the Beeb may give individual editors a lot of elbow room, but it also means that those higher up the food chain can absolve themselves of responsibility.

Greg Dyke paid the ultimate price for a news report broadcast on Today before he'd even got out of bed. He carried the can as editor-in-chief, the position held by Mark Thompson when Newsnight killed the Savile story.

The issue of mismanagement pales by comparison with the wider scandal of abuse, neglect and exploitation, but I get the feeling we have a long way to go before we get to the truth of the biggest crisis to hit the BBC since the last one.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst- Insurance

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Multi-skilled graphic designer ...

Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solicitor

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solic...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The demise of a Sixties monster

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
A CCTV camera is seen in front of a large poster opposite in central London  

Home Office is creating more powers to turn everyone into suspects – but leave us no safer

Shami Chakrabarti
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?