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Discussion > Is the BBC approaching a tipping point?

Richard Drake
My experience of Patten and my interpretation of his behaviour as Governor of HK differ from yours, and from that of your Taipan.
He wasn't behaving like a politician; he was behaving the way he thought a "modern" Governor ought to behave in a democratic age. Why he extended democracy (token though it may have been) in the colony and why the Chinese hated him.
He kissed babies the way the Lord of the Manor would patronise his serfs.
I'm not disputing his honesty (noblesse oblige is still a characteristic of the aristocrat, especially the aristocrat manqué); he is much more likely to preside over the holding of an open and effective inquiry because his opinion of himself and his place in the scheme of things will demand it and in that sense also he is most definitely not a politician.
Remember the Climategate inquiries were supervised by a senior academic and academia is the one part of the Establishment that can give the Civil Service lessons in political machinations (apologies to all those academics on here who quietly get on with their work and wouldn't be seen dead in the vice-chancellor's seat for 10 times the pay!).
But as rhoda said, none of this will affect the BBC. Savile will be thrown to the wolves as will (quite likely) a couple of other 'names' but the spin will be that the culture was different then (which is perfectly true — anyone in their 20s and/or 30s in the 60s and/or 70s who was involved in the pop business would be hard-pressed to disagree) and that such behaviour would not be possible now (which is also very likely true) and that "lessons have been learned" and "systems are being put in place".
The inquiries are mainly a soothing ointment to quell the inflamed feelings of the general public. The prime mover is already dead and unless there are innumerable young ladies now in their late-50s planning to come forward and admit to having it off with the drummer of some obscure pop group when they were 15 (that could be either the girl or the drummer, you understand!) in a basement corridor in Television Centre then this story is already as close to dead as you get.
Of course if the rest of the media care to launch a witch-hunt ...

Oct 31, 2012 at 10:15 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson


He is not democratic.

You mean he does not believe in democracy? Or that in his time as a democratic politician who rose to a position of some influence he wanted to take the UK in a direction you disagree with - integration with the EU, Euro and all - which would in fact reduce democracy as a reality in your view (and mine)?

Hitler was a democratic politician - certainly until von Papen did the deal at Baron von Schoeder's house which made him Chancellor. I think it would be fair to say Hitler was not democratic. But there we have the benefit of hindsight. Does Patten still long for the UK to be part of the Euro? Has he learned anything since 1992? Does he no longer believe in democracy? Really?

I think you're demonising someone you disagree with. Or perhaps just using words in a sloppy way.

It matters because Patten and Entwistle have other enemies right now. I think they include those who are determined that the ugly truth that the Savile situation begins to reveal should be buried. We don't yet know the mettle of these two under intense pressure, I grant you that. But that's all that matters.

A parting question to you, rhoda and Mike: did any of your predict the result of the Hillsborough Inquiry under Bishop James Jones?

Counsels of despair are easy. They also rob hope from those who desperately need it. What happened over Hillsborough reflected great credit on those involved, right up to the Prime Minister, whose statement in the Commons clearly moved and impressed Andy Burnham, who had kicked the whole process off. (You can see both speeches here - courtesy of the BBC of course - and I recommend you do so.) This is a template for me for the BBC situation now. And that's for those that have suffered so unjustly on both cases.

When the BBC has really faced up not just to the current public outrage, but its causes, this will have a deep impact on its confidence about other things. By then who knows what will have happened to wind power and other climate-related scams. Things never stay still. Quite rightly the current administration is indicating radical change. They're being helped by the weakness of the BBC - and it's quite right the BBC should be weaker, until it faces up to this crisis. Whether that leads to even more radical change in 2016 as its charter comes up for renewal depends on many things. But the first thing is how thorough a job Chris Patten and George Entwistle do now. Here's wishing them well.

Oct 31, 2012 at 11:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

...the spin will be that the culture was different then (...) and that "lessons have been learned" and "systems are being put in place".


I think what has disenchanted most people is not so much what went on in the 1970's (or in the 1940's - Uncle Mac) but the recent suppression of the Newsnight on Savile making the organisation's untrustworthiness apparent to all.

The amazing thing about the Savile debacle is that it has been entirely generated by the BBC itself, from its initial appointment of Savile, followed by its aiding and abetting his crimes over many years, its unwillingness to face reality - shown by the supression of the Newsnight programme, through to the recent confirmation by Entwistle of the management's lack of comprehension.

It is very unusual for an organisation to succeed in changing its ways from within. Re-read "Parkinson's Law" - much better to close it down.

A criminal prosecution of the BBC would have a beneficial effect in getting things rolling - how does one get that to happen? Write to the DPP?

Oct 31, 2012 at 11:32 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A


I think what has disenchanted most people is not so much what went on in the 1970's (or in the 1940's - Uncle Mac) but the recent suppression of the Newsnight on Savile making the organisation's untrustworthiness apparent to all.

I think you make a very important point. And I have done from the start of this thread, though it took me a while to join.

I think you're right, pretty much, about the disenchantment most people feel now. But the devil is in detail, in more ways than one. Did Rippon have pressure applied to kill the Newsnight story? MacKean's emails show he admitted as much to her at the time. So why was that pressure applied?

The limited hangout has to do with the Christmas specials eulogising Savile. But on that I agree with John Sergeant on This Week last Thursday: Entwistle and his underlings could easily have replaced those items in the schedules. That wasn't a big deal at all.

I use limited hangout because I see a determined propaganda and cover-up effort here, of the kind we've become accustomed to in the climate area. The pressure on Rippon, for me, had to do with wanting to cover up as much as possible in the area of sexual abuse to protect the living. How bad the situation was or is I don't know. But I think Patten by now knows it's a rat's nest of evil. Why else would he write in the Daily Mail, of all places, that the BBC must ""tell the truth and face up to the truth about itself, however terrible."

As I've said already, his mettle and that of Entwistle will be tested. We will have to wait and see. But the victims now have a voice - and legal representation. It's not going to be pretty.

As for Parkinson's Law and the rest, I think it may be helpful to see Patten as Gorbachev. Someone who did amazingly given where he was coming from - but the system he tried to save then collapsed from its own self-contradictions. Gorby of course was recognised very early on by someone much greater than Patten as "someone I can do business with." But such analogies can only come close. It will take something special from the BBC's current leadership to follow suit. And the ungenerous can say later they were forced into it. But I believe in the greatness of Gorbachev.

Oct 31, 2012 at 1:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake


You appear to be supportive of Patten on the basis of things you predict he will do and on your interpretation of why he is doing/will do them. I am critical of Patten on the basis of past behaviour and statements that he has made and there are no assumptions, interpretations or predictions involved.
I do not dislike Patten, he seems to be a fairly jolly chap. However Patten supports our membership of the EU and that membership deprives UK citizens of their democracy since they can not vote out of office those who make their laws. I say Patten is not democratic on the basis of that fact.
I am very suspicious of knowledgeable, intelligent people who support CAGW and the policies being pushed to "fight" it. I am suspicious because I do not believe it is possible for a knowledgeable, intelligent and honest person to support CAGW (just being honest here).
I agree with Rhoda's comments on the likelyhood of the BBC changing from within (although I think that certain individuals might strive for that) because the BBC only brings on board like minded individuals. Patten is basically a Liberal and as such is the perfect BBC clone.

Oct 31, 2012 at 1:36 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Well, Richard, we will see. As for Hillsborough, I have no informed opinion, except that mistakes by the police on the day were covered up for reasons possibly of embarrasment, possibly liability and possibly just plain denial. Now, so many years later, it is in the past for most, if not the relatives of the victims. It seems unlikely to me that the conclusion of the enquiry, officialdom and organisations taking the blame they deserve, would ever have come from a timely equiry. Ditto Widgery/Savile.

I don't think Patten will reform the BBC. I think a few scapegoats will be found. I am pretty sure that Rippon was put under pressure, but I suspect that will not be gone into publicly in any equiry. In a personal cynical view every organisation with multiple levels of management suffers from paraysis. If you, at the bottom, want to do something brave you have to ask every level of management but it only takes one 'no' to stop you. Rippon either asked or his intentions became known. He was probably stopped. There will not be an email or other record.

Oh, and how wonderful it would be if you were right to expect a real result.

Oct 31, 2012 at 1:48 PM | Registered Commenterrhoda

Dung, I'm supportive of Patten in this sense only: because of the position he holds and because of what he wrote in the Mail on Sunday - that the BBC must "tell the truth and face up to the truth about itself, however terrible." I agree with that. He's said something that I don't recall anyone high up the food chain in UEA or the Royal Society saying before the inquiries into Climategate - far from it. Now we must hold him to it. I see no point in damning him with our opinions on other matters without seeing how he and the massive corporation he has responsibility for handle themselves on this.

Rhoda: "I don't think Patten will reform the BBC." I'm not arguing that he will, in all the areas you and I think he should. But the stench from the Savile situation is forcing his and many other people's hands - and causing some of them at least to examine their own hearts. I haven't even said that I "expect a real result" - but I have outlined some radical outcomes that just could take place. In the meantime careless talk costs lives. Let's wait and see.

Oct 31, 2012 at 2:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Has anyone noticed that Peter Rippon appears to be Tony Blackburn's double?

Perhaps they are one and the same and the Newsnight editor moonlights as a DJ? [or vice versa]

Oct 31, 2012 at 5:09 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

The BBC are now reporting:

The prime minister is appointing a "senior independent figure" to look into the way allegations of sexual abuse at north Wales children's homes in the 1970s and '80s were dealt with.

Victim Steve Messham has said that the Waterhouse inquiry of 2000 only covered a fraction of the alleged assaults.

"Child abuse is an absolutely hateful and abhorrent crime," Mr Cameron said.

He also said Mr Messham would meet with the Welsh secretary, David Jones, on Tuesday.

Speaking in Abu Dhabi, the prime minister added: "These allegations are truly dreadful and they mustn't be left hanging in the air, so I'm taking action today.

"I'm going to be asking a senior independent figure to lead an urgent investigation into whether the original inquiry was properly constituted and properly did its job and to report urgently to the government."

Mr Cameron also urged anyone who knows anything about the allegations of abuse to contact police.

Tony Blair's D-notice to prevent reporting of Operation Ore is also no doubt going to come under the microscope before this ends. The BBC has a vital role in reporting all this fairly. For now, whatever we think about later. It was when the Sunday Mirror quoted Michael Portillo yesterday, arguing for Cameron to open up the whole area that I felt some move was inevitable. I pray that all those who have been susceptible to blackmail in this or related areas come clean. That really would change things.

Nov 5, 2012 at 4:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

The BBC is now launching pre-emptive strikes in its fight back. "Broadcaster backs BBC against Jimmy Savile 'witch-hunt' "

...there has been a "witch-hunt" against the corporation, which had become "horribly out of proportion". "The real focus should be on what Savile did wrong," Mr Dimbleby said.

Let's get this straight:

- A BBC employee makes a statement in favour of the BBC.

- This is reported by the BBC as if it were news, rather than being a public relations statement by the BBC.

The BBC is now stage-managing things so that, they hope, it will be overlooked that:

1. Savile was made into a national figure by the BBC.
2. Many of his crimes took place on BBC premises.
3. The BBC organised his access to adolescents over decades
4. It seems clear that there were BBC managers were aware of what was going on.

Nov 5, 2012 at 5:18 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Martin, I thought Jonathan Dimbleby's comments were very ill-judged when I read them. But I do think they were news - certainly the Daily Mail also thought so. I wouldn't therefore criticise any news organisation for publishing them. It's the Dimbleby reputation that should suffer in this instance.

You only have to have to read hard left blogs at the moment to see the fury at Cameron for his (pretty controlled) criticisms of the BBC over Savile. Some of them have been openly delighting at the turning of the tables, as they see it, after Newsnight on Friday, with one famous Tory name in particular trending on Twitter because, it is said, he is the one who abused Steve Messham and others in care in North Wales back in the 70-80s. Of well-known journalists George Monbiot has taken the lead in naming this man, that I have seen, albeit in a oblique manner.

I don't know where the truth lies but I think Cameron has done exactly the right thing. Rather than take the Jonathan Dimbleby tribal approach this is, I believe, a time for such foul deeds to be revealed, for victims who have not been listened to at last have some kind of closure and for conmen of all kinds to be exposed. That goes wider than the BBC. We already knew that the Savile case took in Stoke Mandeville, Broadmoor and various other vital institutions. Reports of friendship between Savile and Peter Sutcliffe at Broadmoor are frightening indeed. And as you say, the BBC built the man and gave him this platform. Dimbleby should learn from Cameron today in the tone he adopts.

Nov 5, 2012 at 6:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Dimbleby effectively said "It is not the BBC people should be looking at; it is Savile, so much for any thoughts that Jonathon is any more impartial than his brother.
Not one of the people who have commented on this have any credibility, Cameron least of all. I seriously hope I am wrong but at the moment I have no expectation that any enquiry in to this whole mess will be open and honest.

Nov 5, 2012 at 11:08 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Dung: I gave the example of Belgium since 1996 earlier as about the worst one could imagine. Given the low status and trauma experienced by victims of such things it's not surprising that abusers often succeed in covering up their terrible deeds. But sometimes remarkable things happen in the other direction and victims are listened to. I think the Hillsborough report in September was one of those occasions. I don't expect perfection but I do feel there's an opportunity for this country at present. And, although we may differ on the detail, I felt Martin had picked up on something of significance from the start here. That dealing honestly - or even partly honestly - with something centred on the BBC, as least to start with, may have profound impact elsewhere, including the whole of the UK global warming debate.

Nov 5, 2012 at 11:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Richard you are a true optimist and without people like you things will never get put right. However the world also needs pragmatists and I hope and believe that I am one of those hehe.

Nov 6, 2012 at 12:01 AM | Registered CommenterDung

The mp3 audio recording of last night's meeting is now available from the Frontline Club. I'll make some more extensive notes later but here are what I felt were the most crucial contributions, with approximate times:

26:05 Loss of trust in the BBC. Then Jean Seaton on why this situation is so grave for the BBC. Very insightful, in line with Martin's emphasis here.

49:15 Rob Wilson, Reading MP on the BBC's lack of accountability, including FOI. Trying to get the emails from/to ITV in September published.

54:50 Max Easterman, who's made five programmes on child abuse in the past for Radio 4 and couldn't believe how hands-off the editor of Newsnight seems to have been in this case. It was worse than he thought, according to Meirion Jones and Liz MacKean, who made the original programme, who were sitting right behind me.

1:03:50 Olenka Frenkiel. David Jordan canned one of her pieces for Newsnight in 2010, without explanation or accountability. (More of him later.) The difficulty of proving things so that you're not done for libel and the drastic effect on your morale when it's canned for no apparent reason.

1:08:15 Richard Drake. Peter Rippon had pressure applied on him. David Jordan told false story then blamed Rippon for it. Is Rippon being set up? There is something else going on that a rogue editor.

There is much else of value.

Nov 8, 2012 at 5:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

If the Beeb wasn't heading for a tipping point before this, it sure as hell should be now.
What do they teach on journalism courses these days?

Nov 10, 2012 at 9:53 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Mike - that was just a cack-handed attempt at deflecting attention from the thirty years of betrayal of the viewers who enjoyed the Savile programs and the current crisis of paralysis-driven chaos in the layers of BBC "management". The incompetence resulted in it falling flat.

Nov 10, 2012 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered Commentersplitpin

When this thread started, it was basically about the fact that there had been a few glimpses of reality about energy and climate change on the BBC. Now however we seem to be asking if the whole (and rotten) culture of the BBC is likely to change. I was optimistic about the possibility of the beeb being able to change its stance on a single issue but I do not think it is possible to change the whole culture.

Changing all the people in senior management would have some effect but even then the whole of the rest of the BBC would still be Liberal left leaning Guardian readers.

Nov 10, 2012 at 1:21 PM | Registered CommenterDung

You personally don't use anonymity like that and I assume you're going to claim that nobody is that evil on Bishop Hill. But what guarantee can you have about that? What could have stopped Jimmy Savile making a comment here, under a pseudonym? He was a deceptive character who could pretend to be virtuous for many years in some settings.

The league between virtue and nature engages all things to assume a hostile front to vice. The beautiful laws and substances of the world persecute and whip the traitor. He finds that things are arranged for truth and benefit, but there is no den in the wide world to hide a rogue. There is no such thing as concealment. Commit a crime, and the earth is made of glass. Commit a crime, and it seems as if a coat of snow fell on the ground, such as reveals in the woods the track of every partridge and fox and squirrel and mole. You cannot recall the spoken word, you cannot wipe out the foot-track, you cannot draw up the ladder, so as to leave no inlet or clew. Always some damning circumstance transpires. The laws and substances of nature, water, snow, wind, gravitation, become penalties to the thief.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nov 10, 2012 at 2:53 PM | Registered Commentershub

"You personally don't use anonymity like that..." Shub, where did that quote come from?

Nov 10, 2012 at 5:31 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

That was Richard Drake, back in the Nic Lewis IPCC thread, saying that those who 'criticise' Nic Lewis are like Jimmy Saville, or could be Jimmy Saville himself.

'Real' names and 'real identities' are as much masks and facades, behind which raging criminality can very well operate. Blog names and pseudonyms, on the other hand promote free-flowing criticism. It should be difficult to hide one's true inclinations in hiding for long in a regime where you are known not by your name but what you have to say. It may appear paradoxical but it is actually not.

Nov 10, 2012 at 5:49 PM | Registered Commentershub

Shub: no, of course I wasn't saying that. The point I was making was fair. There's nothing to stop someone of great evil adopting a pseudonym here. They'd have to pretend to more virtue than they have. It's part of the thought experiment we should all do.

Dung: I think Martin's best move in starting this thread was the use of 'tipping point'. That could mean any number of things. I think it could mean a major implosion, in fact I think it already has! This will lead, I hope, to much more balance on CAGW. But it could go anywhere. My current hope is that serious names in media and politics such as were at the Frontline Club on Wednesday will start to engage with sceptics much more fruitfully. I sense it could happen. It wouldn't just be within the BBC. But this thread was for me extremely well timed.

Nov 10, 2012 at 5:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

I've been reading about the Saville affair. It appears to me that he carried on as he did because not only was he what he was, but the organization he was in protected him and supported him. A character like him (I can't think of a true climate blog parallel at all) would find it difficult to sustain whatever he or she is trying to pull, under circumstances where anyone can walk up and speak their mind.

Unlike the above though, with your recommendation, if we were to allow only those with their real names to speak, those with power and position would hold sway.

I understand your concern might be that Nic L shouldn't perhaps feel discouraged from pursuing the right thing owing to the vocal cynicism of those whose identities if revealed could show them to be inimical to the 'skeptics cause'

If someone had discouraged Dave Holland's from filing his FOI requests - I would have partially agreed with you (as in, "don't discourage Holland whoever you might me"). The IPCC is a ramshackle, nonsensical banana republic of a body which makes up whatever it wants, as and when it wants to, that affording it respectability by pursuing official modes of inquiry and interaction would be counter-productive.

Nov 10, 2012 at 6:58 PM | Registered Commentershub


I understand your concern might be that Nic L shouldn't perhaps feel discouraged from pursuing the right thing owing to the vocal cynicism of those whose identities if revealed could show them to be inimical to the 'skeptics cause'

Well put. And if not discouraged from doing the right thing, perhaps discouraged from telling us about it on Bishop Hill. I don't want real people like this in any way dissuaded from that. I like this place.

As for your earlier point about apparently real names being just as phony and some nyms, that's quite right. I think we should start to use the terms real people (of which you are one) and unreal people (who might use something looking like a real name but would turn out to be untraceable).

Nov 10, 2012 at 7:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake