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Coffee House

Now that George Entwistle has quit, the BBC needs an outsider

10 November 2012

10:07 PM

10 November 2012

10:07 PM

After just 54 days in the job, George Entwistle has quit as BBC director general. In a career-ending interview with John Humphrys this morning, Entwistle admitted that he didn’t know in advance about, or even watch, the Newsnight investigation which which led to Lord McAlpine being falsely named as a child abuser. Nor did he read Friday’s newspapers which revealed the Newsnight claims were false. (“Do you not read papers?’ asked Humphrys. “Do you not listen to the output?”).

Here’s the full car-crash interview:-

And the resignation text:-

“In the light of the fact that the Director-General is also the Editor-in-Chief and ultimately responsible for all content; and in the light of the unacceptable journalistic standards of the Newsnight film broadcast on Friday 2nd November; I have decided that the honourable thing to do is to step down from the post of Director-General. When appointed to the role, with 23 years experience as a producer and leader at the BBC, I was confident the Trustees had chosen the best candidate for the post, and the right person to tackle the challenges and opportunities ahead. However the wholly exceptional events of the past few weeks have led me to conclude that the BBC should appoint a new leader.

To have been the Director-General of the BBC even for a short period, and in the most challenging of circumstances, has been a great honour.
While there is understandable public concern over a number of issues well covered in the media – which I’m confident will be addressed by the Review process – we must not lose sight of the fact that the BBC is full of people of the greatest talent and the highest integrity. That’s what will continue to make it the finest broadcaster in the world.”

There are rumours that Jeremy Paxman may now quit Newsnight, thereby bringing down the show. The corporation is in meltdown, so anything is possible. For now Tim Davie, the BBC audio and music chief, will stand in. But the next BBC director-general will simply have to be an outsider, given the culture change which is so glaringly needed in the BBC’s management. You just can’t go for another remote corporation bureaucrat. This was obvious to anyone listening to the Humphrys interview (which, in exposing the BBC at its worst, also showed the BBC at its best).

So who can save the Beeb? Chris Patten, the chairman of the BBC Trust (who’ll probably have to go too, eventually) spent shedloads on headhunters before appointing Entwistle. The bookmakers’ favourite is Ed Richards, an ex-Blair aide who helped write the 2001 Labour manifesto and now runs Ofcom. How could a quangocrat with such obvious political bias be the frontrunner? Because all of the other likely candidates are BBC men (and women). Poor Mr Davie is second favourite at 6/4 then Ms Thomson at 3/1. Mark Scott, who runs BBC Birmingham, is at 16/1 and then Danny Cohen who runs BBC1 at 20/1. His predecessor Jay Hunt who’s now creative officer at Channel 4 at 25/1.

So who should it be? Chris Patten reads this blog, so I’m sure he’d be very glad of any recommendations that CoffeeHousers may have.

PS The highlight of last Friday’s Newsnight – the point when it was clear realised the entire BBC hierarchy was in disarray – was when Eddie Mair informed viewers that no one from the BBC was around to comment. Then he gave the camera a look that really was worth a thousand words, many of them expletives:-

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