Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Not just a case of Auntie's bloomers

There are no gleeful BBC tweets now, bumming up its 'exclusive'. No, it's all talk of senior executives being "recused", a splendidly pompous term more typical of the Church of England or judicial system.

The choice of word is deliberate, as if an arcane punishment has been meted out when actually the head honchos are still in post.

It seems harsh that Director General George Entwistle had to fall on his sword. Only in post from September, he was deemed responsible not only for the Newsnight child abuse scandal but also the failure of the Corporation to manage the fallout from the Jimmy Savile crisis.

Newsnight is the common denominator yet what of the journalists there who couldn't even be bothered to show a photo of the maligned Lord McAlpine to his wrongful accuser and ask 'is this him?' Have they been, er, "recused"?

Feeble editorial control led to the shelving of the Newsnight special on Savile.

The same maniacal lack of vision and good sense informed the catastrophic decision to broadcast lies about a former politician (ah, but a Tory!), ignoring inconsistencies and denials in pursuit of a sensational scalp.

The damage reaches far beyond one programme. Newsnight's Savile incident holed the flagship show below the waterline. The new spectacular leaves the BBC's current affairs credibility beyond rescue.

BBC Trust chairman Chris Patton ascribed Entwistle's fall to good old "shoddy journalism". Sadly, it's more than that. As with RTE's Prime Time Investigates documentary that defamed a priest, the malaise has its origins in attitude.

Decades spent cultivating an aura of self-righteousness has led to a vicious (and stupid) sense that just saying it makes it so.

Heads must roll. Professional journalistic standards must be restored. People who choose to knowingly broadcast lies cannot be expected to reform themselves. It's too late.

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