BBC needs an urgent shake-up

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 November, 2012, 2:15am

A media organisation has to produce accurate, reliable and balanced journalism if it is to be trusted by its audience. The BBC's credibility has been damaged by its failure to check the correctness of one report and unexplained dropping of another. Rightly, its director general, George Entwistle, as well as its news director and deputy director have resigned. Chris Patten, the head of its governing body, has called for a radical overhaul. The pledge has to be followed to the letter to try to ensure that the highest standards are adhered to at every level of the news gathering and presentation process.

Gaining back lost trust will be an uphill battle amid so much suspicion and condemnation. What has taken years to earn has been eroded in weeks, first after a television programme investigating allegations of child sex abuse by the BBC's late entertainer Jimmy Savile was scrapped. Independent inquiries are under way. The resignations came after an apology by the corporation's flagship TV news programme on Friday for falsely implicating a former politician in the Conservative Party in another child abuse case.

Extraordinarily, Entwistle, who quit just 54 days into his job and was effectively the editor-in-chief, claims the first he knew of the latest scandal was when the apology was aired. His only choice may have been to resign, but his cause was not helped by being kept out of the loop by those under him. Questions abound: to what degree have standards been compromised, how deep do the problems run through the organisation, how are they to be stopped and is the task too big? A cloud now hangs over the BBC and only by following Patten's call for a shake-up is any hope of all that is wrong being righted.

The BBC is, after all, a venerable organisation against which many media companies around the world measure themselves. Although largely funded by the British government, its television, radio and on-line services operate independently, setting standards that others aim to equal or beat. There is every reason for it to promptly get its house back in order.