Coffee House

Chris Patten claims he has a ‘grip’ on the BBC’s crisis

11 November 2012

10:23 AM

11 November 2012

10:23 AM

Chris Patten has just appeared on the Andrew Marr Show to discuss the resignation of George Entwistle and to evaluate its fallout. Patten conceded that the BBC is mired in a mess of its own making and that it was inevitably under pressure as a result. He opened a media war while defending the BBC’s independence, saying that the corporation was ‘bound to be under fire from Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers’ and sceptical (Tory) MPs, adding later in the interview that Murdoch’s papers would be happy to see the BBC diminished. (There is no love lost between Murdoch and Patten, after the Murdoch-owned publisher Harper Collins decided against producing Patten’s account of his time as Governor of Hong Kong, allegedly on the grounds that the book would offend the Chinese authorities.)

Patten was adamant that he would not resign. He said that it was his job to serve the ‘interests of licence fee payers… to show that the BBC has grip… My job is to make sure that we learn from [the impending Pollard and Smith inquiries]… and restore confidence and trust’ in the corporation. He said that he would not be ‘grandstanding’ and neither would he be taking editorial decisions; but he vowed to be ‘vociferous’. He recalled his joke that there are more senior managers in the BBC than there are in the Chinese communist party, only he recalled it with little humour. He said that there would be a ‘thorough radical structural overall’ of the management structures which allowed the Newsnight scandal to develop. He said that viewers and licence fee payers need to be sure that ‘Newsnight and other programmes are properly managed’ to guard against the recurrence of what he termed ‘shoddy journalism’.

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This talk of structural reform led naturally to the future of the director generalship. Patten said that he would choose a new director general, perhaps from outside the organisation, within ‘weeks rather than months’. He will also ensure that the appointee is surrounded by a team that can make the job do-able. Here Patten was drawing on the advice offered by Sir Max Hastings and Jonathan Dimbleby earlier in the programme; it was that kind of interview: an exercise in showing that he, and therefore the corporation, were responding to criticisms and that he has ‘grip’ (his word) on the crisis.

UPDATE: Patten’s good work on Marr was partly undone by the bizarre decision not to appear on Sky News, a decision that was reversed a few moments ago when Patten gave an interview to Sky. He repeated much of what he had said to Andrew Marr about restoring trust and guiding reform. And he renewed his assault on the Murdoch press, saying: ‘I’m not going to take my marching orders from Mr Murdoch’s newspaper.’ This hectoring tone was a reference to the Sunday Times’ leading column this morning, which says ‘If [Patten] has any sense of honour, should take responsibility for promoting his creature and go too. He made great play about defending the corporation’s independence against a perfectly innocuous inquiry by Maria Miller, the culture secretary, over the Savile affair. Yet her concern has been amply vindicated. The corporation is out of control.’


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Show comments
  • terence patrick hewett

    Bring back John Birt: that will have the rats climbing up the walls.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    The only firm grip that smug git has is on his knives and forks.

  • Trevor Kavanagh

    Patten has not gone native. He was always “native”. He is the authentic voice of the “I look down on him and he looks up to me” movement. Patten has always been over-rated, especially by himself.
    Nor has this anything to do with Murdoch. Just listen again to Patten’s “old friend” David Mellor on Sunday Politics, urging him to consider his position.

  • AnotherDaveB

    Re:BBC reform

    I rather like Anthony Jay’s suggestion of reducing the BBC to one national TV channel, and one national radio channel.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/jeffrandall/2792715/How-to-save-the-BBC-from-itself-and-get-its-hand-out-of-our-pockets.html

    http://www.cps.org.uk/publications/reports/how-to-save-the-bbc/

  • 2trueblue

    He should resign on the basis that the whole debacle should have been handled better. No one had a handle on it and the buck stops with him. To say that the post will be filled in a matter of weeks not months shows that he has no idea what he is talking about. Does he think that there is someone out there ready and waiting, and capable to step in at a moments notice? Patten should go, and the sooner the better.

  • Justathought

    Rhoda is someone infringing your intellectual property by using your brand name?

    • Rhoda Klapp

      I think all the comments are ones I made. Do any show opinions I haven’t expressed before? Am I inconsistent? Consistency is the hobgoblin of something or other. Or is one of them correctly spelled? and not mistyped. That would be suspicious.

  • Justathought

    It goes beyond the latest debacle. It’s the stinking culture where thousands of over-paid employees can with the connivance of the BBC avoid paying the usual rate of income tax.This must be something that the BBC board was aware of and looked the other way which is typical of the culture that has corrupted the organisation.

    • http://twitter.com/BerkshireJames James Randall

      You can hardly single out the BBC for this one. Many people in many different industries in the UK structure their tax affairs in the same, legal, way.

      • http://owsblog.blogspot.com Span Ows

        I think the point was that those people ‘in many different industries’ are not reporting and shrieking about other not paying the right amount of tax.

      • HooksLaw

        The question arises however when these people criticise others for not paying tax, or demand more government spending to which they are not contributing.

    • Rhoda Klapp

      It is quite normal for ‘talent’, who may not be a wages per se but paid according to output and possibly earning significant fees elsewhere by personal appearances or films or whatever to be paid via a limited company. It enables them to reduce the inequities in their tax treatment by paying corporation tax in the year of payment and paying themselves later rather than pay income tax at higher rates and NI because of income falling in the wrong tax year. It is appropriate for people who aren’t on wages to arrange their affairs this way, as contractors do. It is subject to the dreaded IR35 rules.and can be reversed by HMRC if the rules are not met.

      People on regular salary using such a device will fail to meet the rules. If the BBC is paying managers and such this way that is against the rules. There is no need to worry about it, everything will work out.

  • RatherAnnoyedPleb

    Why do I, on pain of court summons, have to *pay* to fund this organisation? On the one hand they knowingly tolerated child abusers in their midst, and on the other they grasped at straws when they saw their chance to smear a Tory, the auld enemy at TV Centre. Shut. It. Down.

    • Dave

      ‘…knowingly tolerated child abusers’. You’re not very bright are you?

      • RatherAnnoyedPleb

        Which part of the BBC do you work at then?

  • Vulture

    If he won’t resign, his mate Dave should sack the bloated little plutocrat. But of course he won’t – because he appointed him! Peas out of the same smug left-liberal pod. The BBC is a disgrace – skewed to the far Left, a daily spewer of lies and trash; institutionally corrupt; sheltering over-paid managers of staggering ineptitude and dependent on cash from we taxpayers. A complete outsider should be brought in as DG to purge it, presided over by a tough chairman. But on second thoughts Patten is probably a worthy representative of this cancer poisoning our nation.

    • vix

      Why purge it? Have it out altogether.

  • Justathought

    What’s the point of the BBC if we cannot get straight balanced unbiased reporting? Watching the BBC makes me feel like we are part of some social experiment in brain washing and political correctness.

    • 2trueblue

      We are. It is all a continuation of the Blair restructuring of our society. Get rid of the real things and replace them with ‘reality’ which is not ours but they think we want it. When you complain you get a letter that has been created by a machine.

      • Colonel Mustard

        The problem is that the simple defence of what has been taken away from us without consent and with much coercion is now considered “far right”, “arch right” or “ultra right” and therefore immediately rendered invalid by the socialist controlled “narrative”. You couldn’t really get a better demonstration of oppression.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Smug bastard, saying how wonderful the BBC is. They really ought to take a look at the other point of view, that they are living on a reputation which may never have been entirely true and certainly is not now. Circling the wagons, that is all he has been doing on the round of shows this morning. It would help if he remembered that he is supposed to keep the Beeb to its charter for us, not be its first line of defence. Not gone native, but recruited for the job because he was already native. I am pretty sure Patten doesn’t read the comments here, no matter what he tells Fraser.

    • Dimoto

      I don’t believe he’s “gone native”.
      He is just a bone idle, elderly cove, totally corrupted by years of bloated sinecure lifestyle.

      After a couple of years of snooze, he has woken with a start, realised his cushy number is under threat, and started frantically waving his arms about and wittering about “restructuring”.

  • Imran Khan

    Chris Patten did a great job on the Andrew Marr show today, and it struck me that he is exactly the cool headed and balanced minded sort of chap we need at the very top of the BBC. What a shame it is that much of the BBC bashing comes from Tories – who instead of supporting one of our most important national institutions – feel they have to knock it down at every opportunity. Maybe, its because while the BBC offers a neutral reporting of the news, these arch-right wingers (of the sort who got a proper drubbing in the US) will only be happy until Murdoch takes over the world. One thing is for sure, the British people demonstrate time after time, that they will not vote for ultra-right Conservatism.

    • Colin

      You must have been watching a different interview. This is a real, very bad, self inflicted crisis at the BBC, the right wing press had no part in its making. To imply otherwise, as Patten appeared to do, was crass, weak and showed that he has failed to grasp the main role of the BBC Trust – namely to represent and protect the interests of the license fee payers.

    • Rhoda Klapp

      Or one might say you are left-wing nd that you are quite comfortable with the left-wing stance of the BBC, with so little debate on a range of issues upon which it is out of tune with a large section of the public. Of course you are happy. But that also shows why some of us are not.

      Now, topical in the light of Remembrance Sunday, we have troops in afghanistan. I don’t like it, and nor do a lot a people. I think they are getting killed and maimed for no useful purpose. Maybe I’m right maybe I’m wrong, but the issue is never discussed on the BBC. It’s a real issue, the BBC does not cover it or debate on the causes and reasons for our continued involvement. Why the hell not?

      • Imran Khan

        I’m not right wing in the slightest – I’m a card carrying member of the Conservatives. And, no, I don’t work for the BBC. I’m just no against objectively reported news even when it doesn’t endorse one party over another. I appreciate many ultra-right Tories don’t like it when the BBC seems to attack Tory positions, but they attack everyone regardless. The BBC transmits British national values, I think people should support the BBC, work positively and help shape them, not work to destroy them.

        • Rhoda Klapp

          OK, I am not a tory at all, although right-wing. In fact there is not much remaining link between toryism and the right wing however defined. If you are comfortable with the BBC news output, your comfort is not based on reality. It isn’t what they broadcast, it’s what they leave out. But that is just the news coverage, standard Guardianesque fare, not very different on Sky news. Apart from that the BBC is responsilbe for a vast array of rubbish.and has way too many channels and outlets. Parts of it do good work. Let’s keep them and chuck the rest.

          You did not say whether you think it is right for there to be no debate on the war in Afghanistan. Should there be such a debate? If we had a referendum today on pulling out, which side would you be in? Me and my ilk of died-in-the-wool empire loyalists and colonel blimps and right-wing swivel-eyed loons want to get out.

          • Imran Khan

            I think the British government made a promise to the Afghani and British people that we would have no combat forces by the end of 2014. Furthermore, the British government rightly wants to ensure we leave in an orderly manner and help firstly to provide a trained up Afghan police force. It would be wholly irresponsible to just down tools and leave right now.

            • Rhoda Klapp

              Way to miss the point. The point is that there is no debate, not who is right and who is wrong. On another post you are attacking colonialism. Sending troops to interfere in somebody else’s country is OK with you? It’s the same damn thing, us thinking we know better than the savages. We don’t. We have been fighting in Afg on and off for a very long time and we never learn that we don’t understand the culture and that Afg does not want to be dragged into some hypothetical civilised democratic wotld. And i don’t see why we are having out chaps blown to bits in order to do it. But at least we should have the debate. On the BBC and in all the other complicit compliant media.

            • Justathought

              I agree with the proviso that we treble the number of Reapers armed with Hellfire missiles and treble the number of Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (UAVs) operated by our boys in Waddington to help maintain the peace and support the Afghan government.

        • Colonel Mustard

          “I’m not right wing in the slightest – I’m a card carrying member of the Conservatives.”

          That says it all.

          • Imran Khan

            You know I mean to say left there. :)

            • Colonel Mustard

              Ok, but many a true word spoken in error, etc. 😉

        • Old Blue Eyes

          If you are a card carrying member of the Conservative party and are happy with the attitude apparent in BBC broadcasting you epitomize all that has caused me not to renew my membership of that party.

          • HooksLaw

            Thats pathetic. That attitude just condemns all right wing parties so created to be peripheral. To be strong and in government a party needs to be a coalition. Your desire for purity leads us to be governed by a trade union dominated labour.

    • Mirtha Tidville

      And just what department of the Beeb to you work then. It needs the nest of sandal wearing Guardianistas in its newsroom clearing out. It is institutionally leftist not neutral never has been and until its scrapped..never will be. get rid of it

    • Colonel Mustard

      Very disingenuous. But there are plenty of “moderates” like you to whom anything right of a very leftist “centre” is “arch-right” or “ultra-right”. To describe BBC news as “neutral” is preposterous. It is little short of Labour party propaganda at times.

      • HooksLaw

        The BBC has an inbuilt leftocentric world view. It feeds on itself to justify its outlook and it seems incapable of objective self assessment in a variety of areas. Any investigation into its current mess needs to examine any links between BBC producers and Watson. This is Pattens job now.

        But it is preposterous to accuse Khan of being a moderate ‘ to whom anything right of a very leftist “centre” is “arch-right” or “ultra-right”‘
        A centre is not ‘leftist’ it is ‘centre’.

        You and others should take the plank out of your own eye before pointing out the mote in that of others. There is a difference between being realistically, justifiably right wing and bonkers beyond any wing nut-job spittle fested loony. A stance which invariably involves the same ignorance lack of objectivity and self analysis and bigotry that such folks accuse the BBC of.

        Its not that long ago the BBC was very torycentric establishment in its views. The discussion needs to widen to examine the new establishment.

        • Colonel Mustard

          Er, it was Mr Khan himself who described those further right than he as “arch right” etc., having qualified himself as right wing and conservative but espoused somewhat left-leaning views – as many Tory “modernisers” do. “Realistically, justifiably right wing” means only those right wing beliefs you choose to hold and is subjective perception. Anything else is “nut-job, spittle fested loony” which is neither objective nor accommodating. You, I and Mr Khan are individuals, not national broadcasters and entitled to our views. Mine is that the supposed “centre” ground has moved leftwards and the definition of “ultra right” etc., has moved with it. Why otherwise do you think the Tories are currently split over so many issues and facing rebellions? By denying and accusing those not carried with them the “modernisers” are not serving the best interests of the Conservative party as a whole but helping to destroy it, and yet that is precisely the accusation that they level at the “nut-jobs”. From my position it looks very much like six to one and half a dozen to the other.

          The Labour party went through a similar experience with Blair but had the advantage of its own media (almost), its tribalism and its grip on the public sector. The Blair-Brownite split was still apparent and there is now a similar split in the Conservative party although no “Brown” figure has emerged to lead the old guard against the modernisers. The modernisers might be inherently correct but they are not very clever in the way they have gone about it. Persuasion is always better than alienation and leadership that draws people together rather than sets them apart is invariably more successful in the long run.

          • Dimoto

            So Brown was “the old guard” fighting against the Blairite modernisers ?

            Nonsense. The “old guard” are Wedgy Benn, Kinnock, Becket, Kaufman, Corbyn, Meacher, Mitchell, Ruddock, Winnick & co.

            The Brown gang are something else entirely, a deeply unscrupulous band of opportunist self-servers, who have been allowed to grab control of Labour and pervert it.

            • Colonel Mustard

              Er no. Re-read my post. The “old guard” and modernisers referred to the Conservative party. By the time of Blair-Brown your Labour “old guard” were for all practical purposes irrelevant. But in as much as Blair represented socialism cynically cozying up to capitalism and Brown represented a more traditional form of socialism, although he pretended otherwise depending on his audience, my comment stands and is certainly not nonsense.

              • Dimoto

                I did read your post. I believe you were drawing a parallel.
                And, yes the old-guard were irrelevant, but Brown as a return to more socialist values ? Don’t make me laugh. That was his cover story to the Labour faithful for a few months.
                But the man is just a maladjusted thug (and his “heritage gang”), are just carpet-baggers.

    • Baron

      Imran Khan, a living proof of what the BBC indoctrination does to someone who would otherwise be a sane, balanced, likable chap: “BBC offers a neutral reporting of the news…. these arch-right wingers…. will only be happy until Murdoch takes over the world.

      Listen up, you deluded man, nobody is forcing you, or anyone else to buy any of the rags owned by the Old Australian, or switch on any of his TV channels, you get this?

      Let’s abolish the license fee, then you together with all the other pseudo-liberal tossers employed by the BBC could start each morning unzipping, pulling your little willies out, waiving them around whilst singing the Red Flag, better still the International. Baron wouldn’t mind at all, in fact, the barbarian will defend your right to do it.

    • 2trueblue

      You obviously watch another channel. The BBC is the Gaurdian on tap. Balanced it is not. Over 13yrs it gave us uncritical Labour and continues to do so. You might also look at how the entertainment over the years have changed. We are not talking about a benign, neutral, balanced, professional reporting machine, this is the BBC, which has its own culture and it is not ours, we just pay for it.

  • Wilhelm

    Patten said ” The BBC has a lot of creative people .”

    Obviously he’s never seen Dr Who ( the biggest pile of horse manure I think I’ve ever seen apart from Eastenders. )

    • Dicky14

      I hope you’re referring to this ‘Matt Smith’ fellow and not Mr Tennent or Mr Ecclestone.

  • Colonel Mustard

    But what about the elephant in the room, Pang? The institutionalised leftist bias? The BBC is not the PRC – you don’t have to appease it. Get a real grip, not a Cameron grip.

    • 2trueblue

      It will never be tackled. It is so entrenched and I would think impossible to get rid of. At one end you have denial, and then those who say you should just watch another channel.

  • Wilhelm

    Chris Patten has that bloated look, too many long lunches, eating rich food and fine wines, that explains the reddish complexion and stomach overhanging his trousers, plus when he walks, it’s a waddle, like a duck.

    The BBC gets £3.5 Billion pounds a year, has more employees than the Red Army and it’s London HQ costs £ 1 Billion. Time to Axe it.

    • 2trueblue

      Wilhelm, it is the Red Army.

    • ButcombeMan

      The BBC has that bloated look too. In more ways than just the salary and management structure-which is a disgrace.

      It does too many things, not all of them very well. Many of them very badly.

      It has become too partial in the way it spins things.

      For the BBC “view” of the world to be too closely associated with a minority newspaper like the Guardian just confirms how far the BBC has become removed from the people who pay the tax that keeps the BBC in being.

      I cannot but think that the haste and lack of care with which the recent mess was reported were both driven by the glee derived by too many people (including to an extent, the odious Brown bag man, Watson) from getting words like “top Tory, Thatcher & child sex abuse” in the one paragraph.

      Patten has the complacency of a large lizard after a fat lunch. Not inclined to do anything very hard or with much effort.. His very being there is apparently enough, we are supposed to believe.

      It is not.

      Entwhistle has demonstrated lack of leadership, in the role he has resigned from , he was Patten’s creature.

      Patten should visit the library, the gun is on the table, pathetically seeking to blame the Murdoch press has fooled no one.

      • http://owsblog.blogspot.com Span Ows

        Indeed! Watson has gone to ground and is very quiet at the moment: he claims he is doing it for the good but his patently partisan interventions belie his own words: he is a maggot.

      • Dimoto

        Patten is unsackable.
        He is best buddies with Cameron’s right-hand man Llewellyn.
        Just saying.

    • dalai guevara

      Never been out with Pickles to enjoy some Gaja whilst opting for a Wagyu steak? Or, even better -with respect to the concept of ‘terroir’- have a good oak-barrel Rioja when Criollo is on your plate?

      It is time to get the obese to diet – let us not forget to include that fat bloke with the hand on the printing button.

    • HooksLaw

      Red Army is weaker than I thought.
      The BBC’s total income is in fact 5 billion
      The new ‘Media City’ HQ in Salford(if thats what you are referring to) cost nothing like 1 billion pounds to build. It was built by developers, not the BBC.
      The BBC occupy (rent?) only a part of it.

      The BBC is selling its Manchester and London (TV Centre) bases.

      But otherwise…. spot on.

    • Salisbury

      This from a man who posted links on the Spectator to websites that smeared Lord McAlpine as a paedophile and who asked sarcastically whether the BBC was planning a Christmas tribute to him. Where’s your apology chum?

  • Colin

    He’s reverting to the BBC standard immediate action drill of blaming the Murdoch press for the crisis at the BBC. For that alone, he should go. He’s clearly gone native, his objectivity has gone out the window. Ta Ta…

    • Imran Khan

      “Clearly gone native”. What’s the origin of this expression?”

      • Colin

        I take it to mean – Adopting the habits of the native population. probably comes from colonial times.

        • Imran Khan

          Don’t be coy. Colonialism, which was underpinned by the desire to transform “savages”, and, which considered the conquered as requiring salvation, means that “going native” is an expression which has an inherent racism in its meaning.

          • Colin

            Grow up.

            • Imran Khan

              Infantilization of judgment is a form of ethnocentric racism precisely because it is a self-indulgent denial of one’s understanding of one’s culture.

              • Colin

                Make one more attempt to smear me as racist and I’ll take action. Consider yourself warned.

              • Hexhamgeezer

                Bullsh!t bingo ‘Imran’

          • Colonel Mustard

            You don’t know much about colonialism – it was underpinned by the desire to trade peacefully – and you don’t know the difference between the origin and usage of phrases. The racism gambit is getting tedious and every time it is deployed in the way you deployed it the real issues of racism and intolerance are devalued and the resentment stoked up another notch.

            • Imran Khan

              That is patent nonsense. Nothing peaceful about taking over someone else’s country and enslaving them

              • Colonel Mustard

                Try to calm down and understand what I wrote instead of putting your bigoted post-colonial spin on it. ‘Underpinned’ and ‘desire’ are the key words. Start by researching the actual origins and purpose of the East India Company in its period context rather than swallowing leftist revisionist codswallop. Colonialism often developed somewhat unwillingly through participation in existing internecine warfare and/or power struggles. Military force was deployed to establish stability to trade. Nationhood usually followed colonialism rather than preceding it. Many of the native peoples that colonialism touched were considerably less enslaved than they were beforehand (or perhaps you think suttee and thuggee or the wholesale human sacrifice regimes of West Africa were liberating practices?) and in the case of the Malaysian states they were arguably already someone else’s country since Western intervention and administration was often welcomed and supported by hitherto oppressed indigenous peoples.

                Less politico-emotional subjectivity and more academic rigour please.

                • http://owsblog.blogspot.com Span Ows

                  Very well said Col. Mustard!…with teh iron bar in the library!

              • HooksLaw

                The other countries as you call them did not exist, anymore than there was a country called America before Columbus etc discovered and started to live there.

          • HooksLaw

            Pathetic.

      • Rhoda Klapp

        In the old days, it meant taken to socialising with the local population rather than the colonial society. Often a euphemism for taking up with a local woman. But in more modern context it means sidng with the institution you have been brought in to police.

      • Biggestaspidistra

        It refers to the practice of rotating diplomats in foreign lands. If a diplomat remains too long in one post he starts to represent the interests of that country to his own, rather than the other way round. He goes native.

        • vix

          Sorry. Good answer but they aren’t interested in listening or responding to the article at all.
          I think the BBC has muddled itself up with being important and a big business – when it’s actually paid for by you and me – like politicians are. The licence fee is just another tax and frankly we have no representation in the BBC. Time to ask what it is for.

          • Hexhamgeezer

            Exactly.

            No taxation without representaion. And the Beeb do not give airtme to English views while they are engaged in their detoxification of the nation project.

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