Letter: My father's BBC sacking was pragmatic not moral

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The Independent Online
YOUR leader ('A bad BBC mistake', 7 March) concerning John Birt and the BBC mentioned the alleged sacking of my father, Peter Eckersley. You suggest that, while the Reithian ethos was wrong over the question of his divorce, it was right about the way Mr Birt was paid. I agree. But how right were Reithian moral standards?

My father was not sacked, he resigned. He refused to be bullied into returning to my mother (his first wife). It was the Board of Governors who made the condition. Mr Reith (as he was then) sided with the Governors, survived the crisis of public confidence, and realised that he was also getting rid of a senior colleague who had openly challenged him over several important issues. My father and Mr Reith had, in their separate ways, laid the foundations for the BBC, but they came to disagree. The divorce decision was taken pragmatically, not morally.

In 1928, my father was expressing disillusion with aspects of BBC policy which he thought gave false weight to a narrow- minded administration by ignoring the creative art of broadcasting. The vast majority of the BBC staff supported Reith against the rebels; and my father had to suffer. But he was not wrong; indeed, he has since been shown to be right. But Reith, and his rules, did appeal to the BBC staff; they had become atrophied.

If we look towards 1993-97, most of us want the BBC to survive as a public service. I am proud that my father helped to pioneer the one truly unique broadcasting organisation, which in the words of your writers, is 'the most influential and respected broadcasting organisation in the world'. We have to see that it survives both internal and external ravages.

The need is for a leader who can unite the past and the future within the public service remit and do so with economic efficiency; but creativity in the art of broadcasting is paramount. A mistake has been made, but who made it? Do we show mercy? I wish someone had for my father.

Myles Eckersley

Lockerley, Romsey, Hants