Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Media is flawed but still a force for good

The resignation of George Entwistle as Director General does not necessarily signal the end of the crisis which is engulfing the BBC.

The recent mistakes by the Corporation in not dealing properly with claims of extensive child sex abuse by Jimmy Savile and also the recent Newsnight broadcast which led to similar and unfounded allegations about a Tory grandee were completely unacceptable.

The latest error was so grave that Mr Entwistle had little option but to go. However, his resignation has been greeted by a lynch mob mentality among certain politicians and sections of the blogosphere.

This is not unlike the furore that followed the revelations about phone-hacking, and led to the Leveson Inquiry which is due to report soon.

However, it should be remembered that it was the Press which first reported the child sex abuse cases in North Wales, and which led to the current crisis within the BBC. Some people will be expecting the Leveson Report to recommend greater media regulation, but the BBC is already heavily regulated, and despite this the Corporation has still committed these grave errors.

It is tempting for critics to point fingers, but there is a strong argument to suggest that the media, for all its shortcomings, remains a force for good. It is crucial that in the light of recent crises, there is not an attempt by Leveson or political leaders to throw out the baby with the bath water and to impose further serious restrictions on print and broadcast journalism.

Some people may argue that the BBC's serious lack of judgement over the Savile scandal has created nervousness which contributed to this latest, and particularly serious, blunder by Newsnight. It should be remembered, however, that the rise of the unregulated social media, including Twitter, with no standards of accountability, has led to a proliferation of communications where all kinds of allegations have been flourishing. This is not a time for more knee-jerk reactions inside and outside the media, but rather an opportunity for reflection and for calm consideration all round.

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