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If it appears obvious that the BBC now needs to purge its management, however, consider the sequel, and understand why reporters don't find the Sahara gag funny when they become editors. Entwistle did not lose his job just because of Savile. Stung by accusations of cowardice, Newsnight lost its mind. It brought in an outsider from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, who said, without quite naming him, that Lord McAlpine, a Tory peer, was involved in a child abuse scandal in North Wales — an accusation that was completely false. The BBC could have done with an interfering manager intervening at that moment.

Because the lessons of the fall of Entwistle pull in different directions, Tony Hall may decide to do nothing. If he does, he will show that he does not understand why British media managers increasingly seem like lost souls. They still live in the world of the 1980s. The old respect for high-bourgeois culture went then. In television, the end of the BBC-ITV duopoly meant that educated producers could no longer say that viewers had to want what they got. In the new multi-channel age the viewers had the means to get what they wanted; and if they did not want worthy programmes then worthy programmes would have to go.

The dumbing down of television began. It was not a wholly malign affair to begin with, but looks a tired idea now. The managers of the BBC, ITV, Sky and, most egregiously, Channel 4, find it hard to produce honest programmes because they have been trained to be phonies, with a professional duty to pretend to be something they are not. They have lost sight of the obvious fact that if you are going to make a drama, soap opera, news report or documentary you must do so wholeheartedly and without embarrassment, or not make it at all. Half- measures lead to half-baked programmes.

Look at the news. BBC television wants to produce serious journalism. Indeed it has a duty to produce it. But managers stuck in the 1980s insist that the BBC and Sky rolling news services concentrate on domestic stories, human interest and crime. Many people, notably immigrants, prefer to watch news from abroad on satellite and the internet as British television no longer covers the world — a cultural shift that makes integration far harder. The McAlpine fiasco is explained in part by the BBC's decision to so hack back on Newsnight's budget that its editors were reduced to bringing in a dubious freelance. The BBC wants a flagship current affairs programme, but is not prepared to pay for it. The result is that people who want serious journalism watch Channel 4 News.

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May 16th, 2013
12:05 PM
You know there's something changing in the world when the editor of the Jewish Chronicle is advising us to switch from BBC News to Al Jazeera. (

May 1st, 2013
11:05 AM
Was Jimmy Savile's pederasty common knowledge in media circles? Why did that story take so long to come out?

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