Politicians are angry but they are not questioning the BBC's future

New Broadcasting House in central London

"Hard to justify…not right… a matter for his conscience".

Today MPs of all parties lined up to condemn the pay off to the former Director General of the BBC, George Entwistle.

Self-proclaimed friends of Auntie said the £450,000 payment was making their life harder.

Long time critics said it proved that the Corporation is badly run and that its chairman Lord Patten should now face the chop.

What was most interesting today though was what didn't happen. Neither the prime minister nor the leader of the opposition said anything about it.

David Cameron chaired a Cabinet meeting in Bristol and faced questions at one of his Cameron Direct meetings. He chose to say nothing about the BBC or the pay-off.

Ed Miliband did a series of interviews for the ITV regions. He also said nothing on the subject. Both men have taken a conscious decision not to add to the BBC's troubles.

Even the Culture Secretary Maria Miller and her shadow Harriet Harman in the Commons were very careful to proclaim their support for the BBC's independence and for Lord Patten before going on to question the amount paid to Mr Entwistle.

Miller insisted that it was for the BBC Trust to justify the pay-out and suggested that the National Audit Office might like to examine whether it was value for money.

All this is due to something leading politicians and BBC mandarins understand but is a mystery to most licence fee payers.

Neither government nor Parliament runs the BBC even though MPs do vote every few years to preserve the BBC by renewing its Royal Charter and set the level of the licence fee whilst the government appoints the Chairman of the BBC Trust which does regulate it.

The BBC's reputation rests in part on being able to say that politicians have no influence on editorial decisions or appointments.

Lord Patten has justified the pay-off of a year's salary by saying that that's what Entwistle would have got if he was sacked instead of resigning which entitled him to only half that amount.

In other words, he believed it was price worth paying to ensure a swift dignified resignation rather than a messy sacking after protracted legal negotiations.

In theory the government could sack the chairman of the BBC Trust by what's called an Order in Council which are issued "by and with the advice of Her Majesty's Privy Council".

There is not the slightest chance of this happening. The only other way Lord Patten will go is if he decides to resign after pressure from fellow trustees or the public or if he becomes bankrupt, mentally incapable or fails to turn up to meetings for three months without permission.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

What a difference a day makes

In just 24 hours, Sir Malcolm Rifkind went from angry defiance to a grim-faced acceptance that he would have to quit his job as an MP and chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee.

Read full article

More on This Story

More from Nick


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    naut 200
    Missed the point. What you describe could only happen if the BBC was the only media allowed and had to conform to gov't dictat. The BBC doesn't have an owner (in the Murdoch sense) who can dictate its editorial policy. The loose managerial structure is a weakness in some ways but also allows lots of different and sometimes conflicting views to coexist which must help with independence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    naut 195
    You're doing it again. I've watched your clip from Newsnight and your claims are untrue. Chinese nationalism is mentioned as is the large increase in China's military power. It's simply a report about worrying developments in that part of the world. Perhaps bias like beauty is in the eye of the beholder?

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    200.Idont Believeit
    BBC could only be a tool to this end if it comes under gov't control
    Govt & the BBC are both largely unaccountable - exceeding their mandate - we can get rid of a bad govt but the BBC is un-regulated & is a law unto itself & non-transparent on issues like pay, tax, weak Trust etc. Both govt & BBC meet the general definition of having liberal fascist properties

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    I think I kind of see what you're on about. It's possible for any political party to adopt fascist tendencies (the power thing) and some good examples come from Blair's time amongst others. But I don't see how you get from a few specific examples from left or right to a generalised theory of liberal fascism The BBC could only be a tool to this end if it comes under gov't control(any party)

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.


    Nautonier - you remind me of this guy:
    Thanks you just proved - yet again - my entire commentary - verifiable, empirical evidence - when you're losing/lost the argument you just can't help yourself

    Welcome to the club!


Comments 5 of 203


Features & Analysis

  • Cartoon of women chatting on the metroChat wagon

    The interesting things you hear in a women-only carriage

  • Replica of a cargo boxSpecial delivery

    The man who posted himself to the other side of the world

  • Music scoreFinal score Watch

    Goodbye to NYC's last classical sheet music shop

  • Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton checks her Blackberry from a desk inside a C-17 military plane upon her departure from Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea, bound for Tripoli, Libya'Emailgate'

    Hillary gets a taste of scrutiny that lies ahead

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • Woman standingMysterious miracle

    It's extremely unusual and shouldn't give false hope, but what makes the body beat cancer on its own?


  • A cyborg cockroachClick Watch

    The cyborg cockroach - why has a computer been attached to this insect’s nervous system?

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.