I feel I should write to defend an aged and beleaguered auntie, whose priceless worth we will only appreciate when it’s too late. The auntie in question is, of course, Auntie Beeb.
The old dear is reeling from association with Jimmy Savile’s monstrous behaviour. BBC Five Live reports that 47 per cent of licence fee-payers find her untrustworthy, and now free-market economists are baying for this 90 year-old’s blood.
BBC managers should not have overlooked Savile’s actions, or pulled the planned Newsnight expose. But these wrongdoings do not justify a cultural revolution where we lose access to information without advertising.
We Brits have a mania for destroying the things we value highest; for fear that they will disappoint us. Conservatives and Mail columnists are demanding privatisation in the wake of the scandal.
But wasn’t St James’ Hospital, Leeds, equally compromised by Savile, because it needed his private funds?
The corporation’s remit of impartiality means that Panorama has added more logs to the funeral pyre. But this is what is so uniquely brilliant about the BBC – imagine the Murdochs screening an expose of corporate phone hacking on Fox TV…
The BBC competes in the same media landscape as all the other channels and, as such, needs to draw audiences with big-name stars. These personalities can develop a feeling of impunity wherever it is they work. For many years the pool of ‘talent’ the BBC could afford was shrinking. It is understandable, if unacceptable, that middle-managers would hesitate to drive one of these dwindling assets away.
Institutions from the Anglican Church to the NHS and the army have been besmirched by bad apples. It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t exist.
Even the Queen gave Savile a knighthood. Are we to outsource all our spiritual and intellectual needs to big business, just for the privilege of feeling less let down when things go wrong? Let’s not forget that Channel Four and ITV are subsidised too.
The most worthwhile institutions are vulnerable to scandal, especially ones with 23,000 employees. Let’s have less moral outrage and more maturity.