The BBC has faced worse crises

Winston Churchill Winston Churchill wanted to take over the BBC as an instrument of propaganda

It's your turn.

That sums up in three words the attitude of many politicians and many in the press to the BBC crisis.

Having lived through their own crises - which critics argue the BBC reported with gusto - sympathy is in short supply.

In recent years, they've seen reputations trashed, jobs lost and people arrested and/or imprisoned.

So they will not see the resignation of a Director General after a mauling by John Humphrys as a cause for much mourning.

What I do not detect, however, is any threat to the existence or status of the BBC - unlike previous rows which pitted governments against the Corporation.

In 1926 when the country was riven by the General Strike, Churchill wanted to take over the BBC as an instrument of propaganda.

Anthony Eden's government drew up plans to take over the Corporation during the Suez Crisis of 1956.

Margaret Thatcher's clashes with the BBC over the Falklands War and coverage of the IRA led to the removal of a DG.

Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell's legal war over the sexed-up Iraq dossier and those missing weapons of mass destruction felled both the DG and the Chairman.

All these crises posed greater threats, in my view, than today's crisis - serious and disturbing though it undoubtedly is.

The prime minister has not sought to impose a government enquiry on the BBC undermining the independence of the BBC Trust.

He has not called for either the Director General's or Chairman's resignation. So far neither has the relevant Select Committee.

Some senior Conservatives believe that Newsnight jumped on a bandwagon launched by one of the party's bitterest foes, Labour MP Tom Watson, who first made a link between child abuse and unnamed Tory politicians.

Many politicians are watching the BBC reeling from its self-inflicted wounds with a mixture of amazement and frustration but I detect little anger or desire for retribution.

One lesson of this crisis is the speed with which people and organisations can move from heroes to zeros - from the triumph of the Olympics to the trough of child abuse.

Another is that you don't have to wait very long for one crisis to replace another.

The next one, coming soon, will pit the press against politicians who believe the law should underpin any new system of regulation.

Today it's the BBC's turn but it will be someone else's soon.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 344.


    The quality of the BBC's output is unrivalled but that is no excuse for sloppy standards.

    It is in everyone's interests that they up their standards.

  • rate this

    Comment number 343.

    I wonder how many posting here actually listen to and watch the BBC. It isn't about party politics or left and right although the BBC has enemies. I listen to Radio 4 every day --the quality of its investigative programmes like analysis, File on 4, the report etc the plays the comedy the news -science the Arts --it's phenomenal and it has thousands of avid fans like me. This is worth fighting for,

  • rate this

    Comment number 342.


    I told you, if I posted the names, I would be censored by the moderators, using the defamatory card. You see it as internet gossip. Yet, no doubt, you have no doubt of the validity of the original Newsnight article that pointed the finger at your hated opposition, I would venture. You would have swallowed that hook, line and sinker without question.

    You reacted exactly as I said you would.

  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    I find it interesting to note the number of left-oriented regular posters who have turned out for the BBC on this thread.

    It really is hard to avoid the conclusion that Labour reckons it gets a good deal from the BBC and that its supporters are ready to put in a little bit of effort to seek to preserve that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    The ex DG of the BBC receives a handsome sum for 'resigning'
    He was selected a few days ago by the Board of the BBC trust, they now have agreed the terms for his departure. I would suggest that the whole of the Board (including their illustrious chairman) should either resign or be removed from their posts, Will recent history be repeated?

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    Steve 338
    So no names to back your claims. Seems like 'internet gossip' to me. I can recommend a good tree surgeon if you need that growth on your shoulder removing. You recommend Labour 25? Perhaps you could add the names of members of other political parties who have similar convictions. After all we wouldn't want to be biased would we? Did Conservative governments ever use D notices?

  • rate this

    Comment number 338.


    Id be delighted to. The censors here would see it differently and would see it as defamatory because Im pointing the finger at the left and it would be wihdrawn. Just google Labour 25 or, check on the Hutton 100 yr D notice pr ask Hattie about her work for the National Council For Civil liberties and who she represented back then. Theres a start for you.

    But you'll dismiss it as tory smear.

  • rate this

    Comment number 337.

    why is Phillip Schofield (ITV1) NOT been sacked ?

    This is not just a BBC issue , this is about MAGNA CARTA and History

  • rate this

    Comment number 336.

    #328 oh so its ok for child abuse to happen on the BBC's watch then

    I'm seeing the real world , NOT a world were the left wing liberal inteligencia operate PC as a means of shutting up debate on a whole range of issues

  • rate this

    Comment number 335.

    So 'liberal fascism' is your new buzzword.
    Presume you stumbled upon Goldberg's book then?
    You're obviously well rattled by 'liberal fascism'
    I see you've managed to find something on the net for you to snipe about.
    Goldberg's book is useful but LF more prevalent in EU than the USA & LF more prevalent in the Eurocrat/Bureacrat EU as institutions tend to be less democratic

  • rate this

    Comment number 334.

    Ron 325

    No debauchery from Labour then? Just fraud and house switching?

  • rate this

    Comment number 333.

    #325 Ron.

    You make a good point, in his day Patten was one of the most astute politicians around, what has happened to him. Of course if there was anything going on back then a lot of those who would have been in the know are still in political life so would want this "hang the messenger" behaviour to muddy the waters. Keep watching C4 news they will get to the bottom of this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 332.

    matt 278

    It's not a matter of opinion - pure dumb logic makes it overwhelmingly likely that I'm right and you're wrong. The McAlpine 'story' is an old one so if the BBC's driver was to smear the tories (as you claim) they'd have run it ages ago, wouldn't they?

    No, the reason they ran it now must be due to recent events. And what's the big recent (relevant) event? The Savile scandal.


  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    Any chance of stopping the navel gazing? Is a special report on your own crisis really necessary? I'm sure people would prefer that journalistic efforts be better spent trying to stop our children being raped. There's a big story here it seems. How about it ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 330.

    @325 ron

    Who are you calling a Pleb? *

    Resign! ;-)

    (* I'm not a policeman on security duties!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 329.

    Hopefully this spells the end of the BBC's ambitions in sensationalist, populist investigative journalism. It never sat easy with the BBC's remit or skills set and is best left to the tabloid press. The BBC should focus on what it does best, and it remains superb in many areas. Having lived abroad for many years I really appreciate the quality of BBC output. People seem to take it for granted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 328.

    327. IR35_SURVIVOR

    ....and just who has been covering it all up?...and attempting to cover up the whole truth (T.May).....time to get heads out of tory backsides and see the real world. They will always view the common man with distaste and contept. The stable should be cleaned starting with those who really enjoy "thrilling unpredicable rides". Perhaps that why dodgy Dave wanted to be PM?

  • rate this

    Comment number 327.

    #325 if would seem that the BBC has been putting a lib of the alledged abuse by Jimmy Sa'De'Ville and others for 40 years or more, of young vunerable people. Patton might not be doing a good job of cleaning the mess up but its been goin on for 40 years , that more important that yr party politics view

  • rate this

    Comment number 326.

    Keith Burtons
    I think you are too censorious of Murdoch and the Daily Mail. When it comes to human behaviour, it's always useful to have an outsider's opinion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 325.

    Patton is doing a great job for the Tories by screwing everything up that he can and directing the debate and spotlight on the BBC and effectively putting a lid on the real issues of Tory debauchery, privilege and abuse of we Plebs.


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