The current Big News Story here in the UK is around historical child abuse by high ranking people and the possible cover-ups. It started with allegations of Jimmy Saville abusing teenage girls while he was a presenter with the BBC and as part of his many other roles linked to his celebrity. It has moved on to cover the North Wales Child Home Abuse Scandal and allegations, which turned out to be untrue, about a particular senior Tory. In the process Newsnight and the BBC have face major criticism for both running and not running parts of the story.
The latest twist in the story is the resignation of the BBC's Director General, George Entwistle following a disastrous interview with John Humphrys on the Today programme in which he comprehensively showed he did not have a handle on the situation. Now, I do not expect the DG to be fully conversant with everything that goes out across the BBC, but where a programme is producing a follow-up item to a story they are currently in the middle of a BBC investigation over which is going to make very strong accusations about senior people I expect him to have an inkling it's going on. When doubts start to be raised about that story on the front cover of The Guardian I expect him to pick it up... or at least have staff brief him on it. Instead he advises that he didn't read the Guardian because he had a speech that morning and had no idea of the doubts until the witness's statement. And no-one thought he might be interested enough to brief him?
Iit is important, as people have pointed out, that we do not tar all BBC journalism with the same brush. Newsnight and the BBC do thousands of stories and investigations every year. This one they appear to have got very wrong. But we don't know full details yet. What we do know is the allegations came from a witness who identified a photograph years ago of his abuser. The police officer identified that photograph as being a senior Tory and the witness has believed that to be the case ever since. Take a look at this Innocence Project video for more on witness identification and it'll become much clearer that this situation is not all that clear cut. However, the media do seem to have messed up by not asking earlier "how do you know it was this man?"
But what is important in this is to remember that this story, like many others, is a Hydra - a many headed beast. We must not mistake one head with the beast as a whole. We must not think that reporting on the Director General quitting over his apparent disinterest in the organisation he is running is the be all and end all of the story. We must not get to the end of this and think we've finished understanding the beast. The other heads still exist. The Jimmy Saville Allegations. The North Wales Childrens Homes Abuse Scandal. The editorial judgement which led the BBC not to broadcast the Jimmy Saville allegations originally. The culture at the BBC at the time which allowed Jimmy Saville to apparently molest teenage girls in what seems to be full knowledge.
I fully expect now that the anti-BBC media will be blowing this up into the most important story and one which shows the BBC needs to be destroyed. Nor do I have any doubt that the BBC will engage in horsehair shirt wearing and navel gazing. Everyone must remember that the problems at the BBC are one head of this Hydra and the whole thing must be dealt with otherwise you are complicit in allowing it to continue to roam and terrorise.
And, stop treating us like idiots who can only cope with one part of a story.
And I'm Proud of the BBC!