The BBC has faced worse crises

Winston Churchill Winston Churchill wanted to take over the BBC as an instrument of propaganda

It's your turn.

That sums up in three words the attitude of many politicians and many in the press to the BBC crisis.

Having lived through their own crises - which critics argue the BBC reported with gusto - sympathy is in short supply.

In recent years, they've seen reputations trashed, jobs lost and people arrested and/or imprisoned.

So they will not see the resignation of a Director General after a mauling by John Humphrys as a cause for much mourning.

What I do not detect, however, is any threat to the existence or status of the BBC - unlike previous rows which pitted governments against the Corporation.

In 1926 when the country was riven by the General Strike, Churchill wanted to take over the BBC as an instrument of propaganda.

Anthony Eden's government drew up plans to take over the Corporation during the Suez Crisis of 1956.

Margaret Thatcher's clashes with the BBC over the Falklands War and coverage of the IRA led to the removal of a DG.

Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell's legal war over the sexed-up Iraq dossier and those missing weapons of mass destruction felled both the DG and the Chairman.

All these crises posed greater threats, in my view, than today's crisis - serious and disturbing though it undoubtedly is.

The prime minister has not sought to impose a government enquiry on the BBC undermining the independence of the BBC Trust.

He has not called for either the Director General's or Chairman's resignation. So far neither has the relevant Select Committee.

Some senior Conservatives believe that Newsnight jumped on a bandwagon launched by one of the party's bitterest foes, Labour MP Tom Watson, who first made a link between child abuse and unnamed Tory politicians.

Many politicians are watching the BBC reeling from its self-inflicted wounds with a mixture of amazement and frustration but I detect little anger or desire for retribution.

One lesson of this crisis is the speed with which people and organisations can move from heroes to zeros - from the triumph of the Olympics to the trough of child abuse.

Another is that you don't have to wait very long for one crisis to replace another.

The next one, coming soon, will pit the press against politicians who believe the law should underpin any new system of regulation.

Today it's the BBC's turn but it will be someone else's soon.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 344.


    The quality of the BBC's output is unrivalled but that is no excuse for sloppy standards.

    It is in everyone's interests that they up their standards.

  • rate this

    Comment number 343.

    I wonder how many posting here actually listen to and watch the BBC. It isn't about party politics or left and right although the BBC has enemies. I listen to Radio 4 every day --the quality of its investigative programmes like analysis, File on 4, the report etc the plays the comedy the news -science the Arts --it's phenomenal and it has thousands of avid fans like me. This is worth fighting for,

  • rate this

    Comment number 342.


    I told you, if I posted the names, I would be censored by the moderators, using the defamatory card. You see it as internet gossip. Yet, no doubt, you have no doubt of the validity of the original Newsnight article that pointed the finger at your hated opposition, I would venture. You would have swallowed that hook, line and sinker without question.

    You reacted exactly as I said you would.

  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    I find it interesting to note the number of left-oriented regular posters who have turned out for the BBC on this thread.

    It really is hard to avoid the conclusion that Labour reckons it gets a good deal from the BBC and that its supporters are ready to put in a little bit of effort to seek to preserve that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    The ex DG of the BBC receives a handsome sum for 'resigning'
    He was selected a few days ago by the Board of the BBC trust, they now have agreed the terms for his departure. I would suggest that the whole of the Board (including their illustrious chairman) should either resign or be removed from their posts, Will recent history be repeated?


Comments 5 of 344


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