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Comment: Response of the BBC says it all

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TOWARDS the end of last month, a London editor was commenting on the Jimmy Savile story, which was then unfolding, and had this to say:

TOWARDS the end of last month, a London editor was commenting on the Jimmy Savile story, which was then unfolding, and had this to say:

'You will not find a more arrogant, self-serving and pretentious organisation anywhere. For years it has acted entirely as it pleases purely on the basis that it believes it has earned the right.'

He was talking about the BBC and, as the corporation appears about to implode, his comments were remarkably prescient.

All the BBC's coverage of its own crisis – one entirely of its own making – has been along the lines of, 'woe is us'. It was a tone adopted yesterday at one o'clock as the presenter introduced the local station's take on the witch hunt before wheeling out the veteran David Dimbleby to say what a splendid bunch the Beeb's journalists really are.

The London editor's view also helps to explain why out-of-touch and now out-going director-general George Entwistle has received double his contractual entitlement and why BBC Trust Lord Patten's 'justification' – that Mr Entwistle volunteered to leave – actually makes matters worse. In other words, it was a reward for going quietly and one paid for by taxpayers.

As David Dimbleby also said, the BBC is over managed and badly managed. It is that which must change.

Fundamentally, however, the corporation just does not get what this is all about: accusing a respectable man on one of its flagship programmes without a shred of evidence of one of the vilest possible crimes.

The BBC now, however, is in survival mode. As a monopoly bureaucracy with a guaranteed income it has a lot to fight for – but that is cash and jobs and not, sadly, editorial integrity.

If the BBC is truly to reform, it needs to give up its protected status and become like other subscription-based channels. That way, after the initial pain, focus would return to the content and journalistic excellence that people are prepared to pay for.

Under the current pay-up-or-else system, it's the corporation – plus poor management and a £450,000 reward for poor performance – that comes first and programmes second.

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