When Lord Hall took over as Director-General of the BBC there was some optimism that he would bring the broadcasting behemoth back to its senses. Instead it has engulfed him. Things have got worse, not better. The problem is not just his appointment of more Labour acolytes or the eye-watering executive pay-offs that have continued unchecked.
It is his failure to address the culture of complaint at the root of the BBC’s problem with editorial judgement and standards of journalism. In the last year BBC has become more politically correct, more obsessed with gender equality and rights. The BBC has become Victim TV. Hall was appointed in the aftermath of the worst BBC crisis since its “Dodgy Dossier” debacle and the Hutton enquiry into David Kelly’s death.
The crisis was caused by Newsnight’s shelved report into sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile. Afterwards the BBC fell into a “level of chaos and confusion [that] was even greater than was apparent at the time” (the Pollard report concluded). The debacle revealed an organisation that had lost its journalistic bearings and was incapable of reforming itself. But instead of implementing a ‘serious review’ of editorial standards and programme organisation and responsibility, Lord Hall wasted no time in getting ‘on message’ with the very culture at the root of the BBC’s confusion. Instead of taking on its culture of complaint and politically correct undisguised rights agenda, he has joined it.
First to get his endorsement have been the BBC’s gender equality warriors. Forget the sloppy diction, forget the bad grammar (all too often coming from the mouths of female reporters), only five months into the job and Lord Hall had set a target of 50 per cent of local breakfast shows to be presented or co-presented by women.
Last Sunday, just as in Animal Farm, it was reported that this target has not been met, despite Jenni Murray playing mentor to local young female hopefuls. Everyone must try harder.
It was just the start of another typical BBC week, and the triumph of the ‘victim’ over independent journalistic inquiry.
Monday’s Radio Four Today programme granted a full 15 minutes of prime time to a young acid attack victim’s hysterical rant against the police. Terrible though her injuries are, the listener might have been forgiven for the believing it was the police who had thrown the acid in her face. They had not. Her lifelong best friend was the perpetrator.
Her fury – which the BBC gave vent to – was that the police initially suspected she may have harmed herself, she said. We were not given the benefit of the police’s account. They had not arrested her one-time friend fast enough (though she is now well and truly locked up). Her angry, confused and emotional tirade was neither discouraged or unpicked by Mishal Husain. She took the victim at the her word and gave her full rein. It was more ‘selfie’ than independent reporting.
On Tuesday the BBC had another victim to drive the headlines. The Rev Paul Flowers, remember him? The disgraced former Coop Bank boss caught buying crystal meth, crack cocaine and ketamine on camera? Throughout the day an exclusive interview with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight was heavily promoted. Though apparently incontrovertible evidence of the Rev’s use of drugs and rent boys has been produced, Paxman indefensibly chose not to pursue the subject.
Paxman was the man who dissociated himself from Newsnight’s Savile debacle by saying they had been wrong to drop the programme investigating his paedophile attacks. Given his kid-glove treatment of Flowers, he must have a short memory.
And what about the Rev Flowers, did he show shame, remorse? He showed none and worse, none was demanded by Jeremy. Instead he indulged Flower’s self-serving “I am a victim of addiction” line. Blame was shifted instead onto the Tory government. Flowers’s hubris, incompetence and criminality and his disastrous appointment, which led to thousands of innocent investors losing their money, went unchallenged.
The BBC’s victim obsession did not relent as the week progressed. On Wednesday we learnt that women were still the victims of boardroom discrimination. There was no wider critique, although survey after survey indicates that this is an ambition most women do not share.
With Thursday came the betrayed victims of domestic violence (betrayed by the police of course, not by their violent partners). The analysis of the HM Inspectorate was fully supported by the ‘right on’ Home Secretary Theresa May and the politically correct rent-a-quote Chief Inspector Of Constabulary Tom Winsor. The BBC should have asked exactly how dispassionate was the report’s evidence. But no, no such questions were posed. The victim was king. Yet the bulk of the evidence was taken from self-defined sources – domestic abuse victim focus groups, 500 victims supported by victim support groups and 200 ‘independent’ domestic violence advisors – all with a vested interest in this ongoing drama.
Nor was it asked why in this era of ultra equality and gender rights do women allow themselves to get into and stay in abusive relationships for so long. It seems the police are to blame – not the warring couples themselves. No questions were asked about the collapse in standards of decent behaviour associated with state-supported family breakdown. Nor were the 700,000 male victims of domestic violence mentioned, let alone interviewed. Not once was the impossibility of the police’s predicament in trying to deal with the fall-out from family breakdown considered.
And no wonder policemen no longer even try to defend themselves. Today’s blame culture leaves them with no option but to grovel and promise ever more political correctness. Just look at Bernard Hogan-Howe’s cringe-making apology that night to a Nicky Campbell-style TV audience for police effrontery in stopping and searching anyone. Goodbye to police authority.
There was one group however that the BBC did not present as victims; these were the multi-ethnic residents of the Page Hall district of Sheffield on the receiving end of a large-scale localised Roma migration, who in John Humphrys’s words ‘ambushed’ him in the course of his visit, begging the question as to whether they would have been given their voice otherwise. They were overwhelmed they said – by overcrowding, by unprecedented amounts of rubbish thrown into gardens and dumped in streets, by all-night noise and late-night groups of non-English-speaking young Roma males on the streets. It had been going on six years and had got worse, not better.
No they were not victims (in the BBC mindset it is migrants who are victims) with their distinctly politically incorrect views about the Roma, however unarguable the slide into chaos of their neighbourhood. Only being multi-ethnic themselves saved them from a BBC charge of racism.