Politicians are angry but they are not questioning the BBC's future

New Broadcasting House in central London

"Hard to justify…not right… a matter for his conscience".

Today MPs of all parties lined up to condemn the pay off to the former Director General of the BBC, George Entwistle.

Self-proclaimed friends of Auntie said the £450,000 payment was making their life harder.

Long time critics said it proved that the Corporation is badly run and that its chairman Lord Patten should now face the chop.

What was most interesting today though was what didn't happen. Neither the prime minister nor the leader of the opposition said anything about it.

David Cameron chaired a Cabinet meeting in Bristol and faced questions at one of his Cameron Direct meetings. He chose to say nothing about the BBC or the pay-off.

Ed Miliband did a series of interviews for the ITV regions. He also said nothing on the subject. Both men have taken a conscious decision not to add to the BBC's troubles.

Even the Culture Secretary Maria Miller and her shadow Harriet Harman in the Commons were very careful to proclaim their support for the BBC's independence and for Lord Patten before going on to question the amount paid to Mr Entwistle.

Miller insisted that it was for the BBC Trust to justify the pay-out and suggested that the National Audit Office might like to examine whether it was value for money.

All this is due to something leading politicians and BBC mandarins understand but is a mystery to most licence fee payers.

Neither government nor Parliament runs the BBC even though MPs do vote every few years to preserve the BBC by renewing its Royal Charter and set the level of the licence fee whilst the government appoints the Chairman of the BBC Trust which does regulate it.

The BBC's reputation rests in part on being able to say that politicians have no influence on editorial decisions or appointments.

Lord Patten has justified the pay-off of a year's salary by saying that that's what Entwistle would have got if he was sacked instead of resigning which entitled him to only half that amount.

In other words, he believed it was price worth paying to ensure a swift dignified resignation rather than a messy sacking after protracted legal negotiations.

In theory the government could sack the chairman of the BBC Trust by what's called an Order in Council which are issued "by and with the advice of Her Majesty's Privy Council".

There is not the slightest chance of this happening. The only other way Lord Patten will go is if he decides to resign after pressure from fellow trustees or the public or if he becomes bankrupt, mentally incapable or fails to turn up to meetings for three months without permission.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Re Entwhistle's severance pay before the BBC get too defensive they should reflect how they would report a senior executive's payoff elsewhere.

    I've some sympathy for Entwhistle he was overtaken by events but it is hard to justify this package.

    This is a reflection of market forces in the public sector - it has not made things better it's just excused exorbitant executive pay for the few.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    37 Minutes ago
    Time to stop the naval gazing..........

    I see no ships!

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Struggling to get past "Politicians are angry but 'there' are not questioning the BBC's future"

    Oxbridge ain't wot it used to be

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Time to stop the naval gazing, the recriminations, finger pointing and baying for blood. Time to regroup and knuckle down. Time now to get back to doing the right thing; and doing it well. Time to realise that it's NOT all about you (BBC). Tome to focus on the real victims. Please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    You have written a story based on the fact that David Cameron and Ed Millband said nothing. How many years of journalistic training and experience do you have? You are going to pick up your paycheck this month consisting of pensioners' licence fees on the strength of this. Is this some kind of sick joke?

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Politicians are angry but THEY are not questioning the BBC's future

    (please correct the typo in the headline - THEY, not THERE)

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    The BBC is it's own worst enemy and has helped to work up the current management crisis to where people talk of an existential implication. It appears to have been forgotten that there may have been widespread abuse of children and women by BBC celebrities, on BBC premises with the possible tolerance of BBC officials and yet this is hardly mentioned now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Surely it's possible to sack someone on grounds of incompetence without have to pay compensation?
    Mr. Entwistle may be cerebral, considered, and a thorougly good egg but he clearly was not up to the job and lacked leadership ability.
    He shouldn't have applied for the DG job and he shouldn't have been appointed.
    Those who appointed him should pay any compensation which may be due.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    The BBC is not doing its job of reporting the upcoming European General Strike. Nor that the Foreign Office is 'advising' us to 'stay clear of demonstrations'. Why? Here in Spain the govt is on a path contradicting its manifesto promises. So too is the govt in the UK, and it is unelected.
    The Huelga should grip the UK too, where the ruling class has clearly collapsed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Head of BBC needs to be called before parliamentary committee on a regular basis for 'him' (preferably a 'her') to MP's & account for what programmes/stories are run & why some are dropped - that is the editorial scandal that needs to be addressed with Savile debacle - why some programmes are not run for 'cover up' & BBC political agenda - so that BBC culture & attitude is examined for INTEGRITY

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Politicians are aware that there are a lot of people out there who value the BBC and enjoy the output from Strictly to David Attenburgh to panorama and the suberb Radio 4. Politicians endanger that at their peril.Serious mistakes have been made that undermine BBC values but the BBC and its commentatoers need to get some backbone and start defending the corperation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    The BBC Trust and it's Trustees need the scrutiny and close examination as they are responsible and culpable for over-priced contracts agreed for so-called celebrities, and many more besides. There Nick, said it for you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    The real victims are the one's neglected by quangos like the BBC & other bureacrats
    Baby P
    Victims of FGM (subject largely avoided by the BBC)
    Abuse victims troubled by drugs etc
    People trafficking - illegal immigrants - nigh completely taboo for the BBC
    Under-age prostitution - Rochdale etc - BBC had no HYS I recall on that one
    Is not just Savile or N Wales - BBC manipulates its 'coverage'

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Substantive comments below are invigorating.

    As an editor, however, your grammar is appalling.

    "Politicians are angry but there are not questioning the BBC's future." C'mon. Even Gate's Word application would have highlighted the grammar problem with that headline.

    My 11 year-old son was scanning news and laughed aloud, and shot off a copy to his English teacher.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    I'm no apologist for the BBC but the settlement for the DG is a matter for the BBC and the license payer. The last input anyone needs is moralistic huffing and puffing from opportunistic MPs, some still flipping. Or diversion from the McShane and Moran cases.
    The real victims of years ago, and the new one, McAlpine are far more important.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    He was effectively fired (told to resign) so they paid him off accordingly, however it wasn't thought proper to present it that way.

    Don't know why (in both public and private sector) this sort of mollycoddling obfuscation is deemed necessary when (and only when) senior level individuals are involved but thus seems to be the case.

    No doubt Patten will carry on 'grandeeing' as long as he can.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    And was he being paid as a sub-contrator?

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.


    Good twist on the story - from one of the few journos who is probably worth their substantial & unknown salary
    The people who will definitely have no direct say on the BBC's future are the millions of licence fee payers who have to pay for the BBC quango mess.
    The BBC Trust should make BBC funding a manifesto issue for pol. parties in 2015?

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Patten won't go because he was apponted by Cameron. Finding a new chairman whilst avoiding the charge of bias would be a can of worms and take valuable weeks. Ed is quiet because if Patten goes his replacement might be more right wing.

    Patten must be given a chance to sort the mess out.

    The BBC must continue to challenge the GOVERNMENT. They challenged Labour as they now challenge the Tories

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Politicians may be keeping quiet but I wouldn’t mind betting that those in senior Government positions are quietly relieved. I rather think Mr Entwistle could have made things very uncomfortable for them.


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