The BBC Deservingly Melts Down

The BBC is pretty much in the biggest crisis in its history right now, and it’s all self-inflicted.

The immediate problem is that NewsNight, sort of like the BBC’s 60 Minutes, aired a report on Friday that accused Lord McAlpine, a senior Tory politician, of child abuse. Then the accuser recanted, saying it was mistaken identity. Oooooooops. Holy Shit.

But this just the icing on an even bigger cake that involves the BBC and child abuse. Last year, Jimmy Savile died. He was basically sort of like the UK’s Dick Clark, but a lot more colorful. He had a couple of big, long-running shows on the BBC. It also appears that Savile was also the UK’s Jerry Sandunsky, as Scotland Yard is literally investigating hundreds of cases where Savile used his popularity and charities to molest under-age girls. It’s a gigantic scandal, because, like Penn State, there had to be a shitload of people who were turning a blind eye, especially at the BBC.

The result is that the head of the BBC just stepped down after less than two months on the job, but that’s not going to save the BBC.

Fits in nicely with the Eurogamer controversy, and what it means for British libel law.

I find it strange that the accuser should have recanted so quickly. Do you think it was done on purpose, to discredit the BBC?

If I put on my tinfoil hat, it could be to just muddy the waters and reduce the Savile thing, which by all accounts was decades-long, known, and heinous. See Jerry Sandusky and Penn State over here. I don’t actually believe that though, I’d say that a light has finally been turned on inside a bloated monolith of a corporation/media entity/institution and people finally feel like they can come forward. There will be more.

There’s a bit more to this story than you are laying out. Firstly the BBC didn’t name Lord McAlpine, and secondly the North Wales police are ultimately to blame for showing the victim a picture and incorrectly telling him it was Lord McAlpine. The victim then told the BBC, before recanting when he saw an actual picture of Lord McAlpine and realised there had been a mistake.

Sure the BBC cocked up, and the Jimmy Savile debacle looks set to run and run, but let’s not get too over excited. Unfortunately for Daily Mail readers and Rupert Murdoch the BBC isn’t going to be disbanded or privatised. There’s been worse stories than McAlpine’s (it’s not really that big a deal) and Jimmy Savile’s crimes were so long ago it hardly the blame of the current BBC leadership.

It’s not like the BBC were alone in their ignorance. Jimmy Savile was everywhere and everyone was (amazingly) taken by surprise. He was even great friends with the arch-conservative Margaret Thatcher who gave him his knighthood. She didn’t suspect anything either.

I’m not sure what you’re driving at. The BBC isn’t an exception, it’s the rule that just got the covers yanked off. Who gives a fuck about a single incident with spurious proof (If the glove doesn’t fit!) they’re a shitty old-school monolith that needs a shake-up.

It’s an exception in that it’s a state broadcaster, something which you Americans will NEVER get because you’re too stuck up with the idea that a free press is one that’s owned by someone else, including Rupert Murdoch types – and just face it, most press barons are Rupert Murdoch types, or have you learned nothing from William Randolph Hearst?

So your point is that lifelong bureaucrats in a monopolistic company supported by the state is better? No offense man, but you’re fucking looney tunes. I work for a power company, the last and greatest privately owned monopoly in the US, and I recognize the stink of my own shit when I smell it.

There are private TV networks in Great Britain, so the BBC is not a monopoly – unless you think of the necessity to pay for a license to have a TV, which finances it. In fact, I think we in Canada should adopt the television license model of financing, to liberate the CBC from the need to include advertising, and from there to liberate it from broadcasting what is popular. I want opera on the air, theatre, intelligent shows, comedies that don’t pander to the lowest common denominator, and newsrooms with a budget for investigative work, larger than it currently is. Do you expect your glorious private American networks to pay much attention to investigative reporting? And I don’t mean Fox-style EXCLUSIVE: OBAMA IS A TIME TRAVELER FROM THE SOVIET UNION.

It’s also not my fault if nationalization is such an ugly word for you. I don’t think there is a single large private power company left in Canada – here in Quebec they were all nationalized in the sixties.

Do you honestly think I’m railing against public television? Do you ever stop to notice that maybe you’ve arrived somewhere that subtlety is appreciated? If anything I’m making the case that whenever any organization becomes too large you will see this sort of widespread corruption and deception arise. It’s an indicator and result of the human condition.

You seem to have more of a bone to pick with your interpretation of the US than with the actual substance of this conversation. I’m going to wait for Tim to comment because, horror of horror, he has some pretty well thought out positions on things that don’t seem to be poisoned by his own prejudices.

The Savile thing is big enough that the BBC does need a leadership shakeup, though I’m not sure why it should have cost that new guy his job.

I don’t think it will fundamentally change the role of the BBC though. Fire all the bastards that knew what was up and move on.

The BBC has been going down hill for a good decade or so (in terms of the customers experience of it). And looking at all the Jimmy Savile stuff it appears to have had a rotten core executive for decades longer. Heck i even wrote to Jimmy Savile as a kid (but in hindsight got lucky not to get an answer from his ‘Jim’ll Fix It’ show), during which time frame he was an active pedophile.

But context is everything as Tim Partlett gave some details on. Sure in the context of making that editorial mistake (of not being 100% sure about a serious allegation), then someone needs to pay for that, and they have.

In the wider context of a decades long war from private media moguls against the BBC, that was very specifically brought into focus when Tony Blair was prime minister, and best friends with Murdoch, well that is what it is. The BBC while remaining a ‘left-wing’ (as in having social concerns and remit, it being the broadcaster of the british society as a whole) institution will always be attacked and undermined by the mostly right-wing, corporate interest media that is the majority of the ‘independent’ broadcasters.

The BBC has a history of holding education of the population as an important benchmark (the BBC science programs really do put 99% of all other channels to shame (Discovery etc)), as it has that ‘social’ concern and desire to serve that society (by helping it be better educated etc), this also translates into other area’s like trying to keep people informed in general (but not about Jimmy Savile, big fail that one).

This is all a far cry from most ‘free’ (non social) media that is funded by private individuals with various agendas that always resolve around helping them make more money, even if it is ultimately harmful to people in that specific society or not. Profit has zero morality, zero social concern, and ultimately zero responsibility. All that matters is the profit itself, which will nearly always just go to a small group.

So just because of that, and even in light of falling BBC standards over the years, and that i watch far less TV than i once did because of this, i will always be happy to support the BBC while it mostly tries to represent my society, and help my society be better informed. Information is power, and the world is full of way too much corporate interest led dis-information for the most part. The BBC is far from perfect, but it is right now 100% better than anything that people like Murdoch offer.

The Jimmy Savile thing however is about as rotten as you could get, it will be very interesting to see what the police investigation concludes out of it, as i’m sure there must be some top BBC executives not sleeping that easily currently (and rightly so).

Sure the BBC needs a shake-up, they’ve admitted that themselves today. My point was that I don’t see that the BBC needs “saving”, as Woolen Horde suggested, as it’s not going to shut down. This isn’t like the hacking scandal, so we won’t be getting a News of the World type closure.

In isolation this McAlpine Newsnight report wouldn’t merit a post on a forum like this and I doubt it would have cost the CEO his job. But the main problem is that the BBC is believed to have quashed a similar Newsnight report investigating the Jimmy Savile claims, and so any report like this was going to look bad anyway, and should have set alarm bells ringing. But it didn’t. There’s a failure there somewhere and the CEO is the first to pay the price.

I would still watch bbc news and newsnight than the other poor news channels we get over here, Sky News is just horrendous when you comapre it to the quality of their sports channel for example.

The new guy got caught up in the stuff from the past and was unfortunate. A shake up is needed, more focus on the news and not being too left or right, drop the politics and do the news which the BBC is best at.

When we were in Germany a couple of weeks ago, our friends from London said that the BBC was going to air a show last Christmas time outing Saville and his crimes, but the show was squashed for some internal reasons. Then the Independent channels put on shows about it, and it also came to light the BBC squashed theirs, and there was an uproar over that. But that is just dinner talk with a friend from London so I don’t know the “real” story.

COMPLETELY different direction: back when I was younger and we moved to England for a few years, it really struck us just how different BBC was compared to the U.S. networks. Not necessarily better or worse, but different. Like, shows starting at 8:10 or 9:40 instead of right on the hour or half hour. And (this is how old I am!) David Frost interviewing someone on his show, having a great interview, running out of time, and saying “Wait, let’s see if we can get 15 more minutes!” - and getting it!

Really? So the BBC who showed the man who photos of Lord McAlpine, and he identified him as the abuser…mysteriously recants as soon as the police get involved. Literally immediately.
At a time when the government are out for revenge on the BBC for embarassing them. Even Vetarnias can see this.

Sarkus - The Tories will slash large parts of it away. Starting with the profitable bits, to give them an excuse to slash the rest.

(Not that they’ve been doing their job anyway, they’ve not been impartially showing the results of the Government’s actions!)

The BBC is an absolute nightmare and a car-crash and has been for years, maybe decades.

There are some awesome BBC programs on TV and radio, people always point at the today program, question time, and the attenborough natural history stuff, and all this is good, but it’s maybe 0.01% of the BBC output. The BBC’s output in general is cheap, populist, trashy lowest-common denominator bullshit like ‘strictly come dancing’ probably a dozen trashy daytime property shows, numerous unfunny ‘edgy’ comedy panel shows, and all of it is padded out with constant, irritating trailers for the same shows, shown again and again and again and again…

Their news reporting on TV is little better. No item gets more than a few minutes, so no depth is gone into, the newsreaders are barely informed about the issues and treat the audience like simpletons. The BBC is all flashy animated graphcis and grinning Z-list celebrities.

But generally, the problem is the BBC is just TOO BIG. No state broadcaster needs to pay its chief exec three times more than the prime minister. Crap like ‘strictly come dancing’ could be shown by commercial TV channels. There is no need for BBC3 or BBC4 or any of the other stations that are half filled with repeats anyway. The BBC could shrink to a tenth it’s current size with no reduction in the amount of actual quality programming.

I’m a supporter of the idea of state-funded (a separate license fee is an inefficient joke of a funding system) TV providing public-service broadcasting. I just object to being forced on threat of imprisonment to pay for the ‘graham norton show’ which is basically a promotional vehicle for millionaire media celebrities. It actually aired a TV show yesterday called ‘pointless celebrities’, a celebrity edition of the daily quiz show ‘pointless’. You couldn’t make this shit up…

I also despise the BBC arrogant self-belief that it is the ‘most loved broadcaster in the world’ and called ‘auntie’ by british people. Have you ever met ANYONE who calls it that? It also declares anyone who criticises it to be in the pocket of murdoch, which is laughable.
It needs a serious kicking up the ass, and to be forced to actually provide what it’s meant to provide: public service broadcasting.

That’s right, it’s unbiased and dosn’t cater just to your ideology. The usual. A bee farts, the BBC is evilll!

all of it is padded out with constant, irritating trailers for the same shows, shown again and again and again and again…

A small fraction of the advertising on other chanels, which are constant, irritating adverts for the same products, shown again and again and again and again…

You couldn’t make this shit up…

No, you can’t, that’s from it’s commercial branch.

It needs a serious kicking up the ass, and to be forced to actually provide what it’s meant to provide: public service broadcasting.

You want to strip it down to a right wing propaganda service, right. Only one side allowed.

wow, its like dawn falcon all over again. Bye troll.

I don’t think that’s a fair assessment of what cliffski said.

I actually agree with him. I think the BBC should return its focus on quality output and leave the populist claptrap to the commercial channels.

Their news reporting on TV is little better. No item gets more than a few minutes, so no depth is gone into, the newsreaders are barely informed about the issues and treat the audience like simpletons. The BBC is all flashy animated graphcis and grinning Z-list celebrities.

I think this is a bit unfair. It’s true, but compare the BBC’s news output to other media and I think it comes out looking good. Just as an example: During the Japan disaster, while the BBC struggled to avoid the OMG NUCLEAR END OF THE WORLD DISASTER IMMINENT narrative that the commercial channels bought into (no doubt to maintain viewing figures) it did keep relatively balanced comparatively. For example I watched one CNN news reporter get angry with a nuclear expert who told her he didn’t think the world was going to end, and argued with him. How terrible for her - he made the news sound so boring.