By Max Hastings | Daily Mail
The Savile scandal has thrust the BBC into one of the gravest crises in its history: in the words of Corporation veteran John Simpson, ‘the worst in my 50 years’.
Yesterday’s ‘temporary’ resignation by Newsnight’s editor is only a beginning.
Some of the Corporation’s most senior executives, from the Director-General downwards, could well lose their jobs — and deserve to.
BBC Trust Chairman Lord Patten has spoken of a ‘cesspit’ of revelations and allegations. The entire moral ethos of the Corporation is being called into question.
Such a crunch is overdue. Most of the men and women who rise to the top of the BBC hierarchy are self-serving bureaucrats of meagre abilities and scant editorial judgment. Their most conspicuous skill is in securing extravagant rewards. Their most consistent characteristic is cowardice.
In recent days, a succession of former BBC panjandrums has taken to the airwaves, to assert sanctimoniously it is unthinkable that top management would interfere in editorial decisions, as is alleged to have happened in the suppression of Newsnight’s report on Jimmy Savile’s paedophilia.
Yet every presenter and producer who has worked at the sharp end of the Corporation knows this claim for a travesty. Senior executives meddle constantly, almost always to stop the broadcasting of anything that might threaten their own chauffeur-driven existences.
In the early Seventies, I worked as a reporter for two BBC TV current affairs programmes, 24 Hours and Midweek. We took it for granted that the departmental bosses with their grey suits, grey manners and grey morals took a hand whenever politicians or tycoons bent their ears.
In 1973, I made a film about Robert Maxwell, produced by Tom Bower, who later became famous as the old monster’s biographer.
Maxwell was already known to be a crook, but that did not stop him lobbying the BBC incessantly, to get our film indictment of him softened. Corporation managers buckled almost without resistance. Bower and I were forced to accept substantial changes to make the script more sympathetic to Maxwell — supposedly in the name of fairness.