Imagine a one-legged man hopping along a tightrope strung across the Niagara Falls in a force eight gale, and you have some idea of the difficulty the BBC faces in keeping a balance in all things.
The corporation’s attempts at maintaining a political, social and legal equilibrium is further hampered by endemically left-leaning newsrooms, and a laughably multi-layered management structure.
In every newspaper I’ve ever worked on, the editor’s word has been final.
He or she might consult occasionally, but as they had to bear the ultimate responsibility, it was only right they made the ultimate decision.
But the Newsnight debacle over its Jimmy Savile coverage has cast an unflattering spotlight on the list of editorial decision-makers – and consequent capacity for equivocation – at the BBC.
Above the editor of Newsnight is the Head of Newsroom, the Director of BBC News and the Director-General himself, who also carries the title of Editor in Chief. The final decision, therefore, rarely rests with the person most qualified to make it.
He or she can always be over-ruled, and though the BBC is at pains to deny any such top-level interference in the decision to drop the Savile expose on Newsnight, the potential for a toxic compromise was always there.
The corporation’s attempt to recover some of its shredded integrity with the Panorama special on Savile was only partially successful.
The fact that none of the senior executives agreed to appear on the programme merely deepened the suspicion of corporate ineptitude and self-preservation.
But there was no such escape for the new DG, George Entwistle, when he appeared before the Commons Media, Sport and Culture Committee.
Looking and sounding like Tim Rice’s little brother, and nodding throughout like a toy dog in the back of an old Ford Cortina, he was exposed as well-meaning but totally ill-prepared.
He was mocked for his inability to provide definitive answers, as he tried to make vacillation and lack of detailed information sound like a positive quality in a manager. I suspect the loathsome Savile may have claimed one more victim.