In my previous article, The Plover and the Crocodile, I explored the difficulties that are bound to be faced by a quality assurance function when it is confronted by a culture that relies upon the mutual scrutiny of those who have a shared interest. The BBC got a mention, by implication, because of its woeful inability to protect the most vulnerable members of society from a predatory monster that just so happened to be a BBC employee. However, to be fair, the BBC never did set itself up as a branch of the social services, so I suppose a little bit of corporate-sponsored paedophilia and necrophilia was to be expected. What is more difficult to accept, however, is that an organisation that lives off a worldwide reputation for journalistic integrity should encourage and protect an employee that had fed a painfully insecure royal celeb with poisonous lies, before then interviewing the poor soul so that the fruits of the self-destructive paranoia he had sown could be used to attack a country’s monarchy.
I speak, of course, of Martin Bashir and his notorious interview of Diana, everyone’s favourite dead princess. I won’t go into all of the detailed skulduggery that lay behind that interview, nor the ramifications it had for those affected. I won’t even dwell upon the lengths that the BBC went to in order to cover up the sordid affair, including the running of a smear campaign against those employees who attempted to expose the deceit. All of this is well documented elsewhere. However, there is one commentary that I would like to draw to your attention – that of Lord Michael Grade, former Chairman of the BBC. He has previously been critical of the culture at the BBC but never more so than when he said yesterday on Channel Four:
“Their default position is always ‘We are never wrong, we have got it right. We don’t care what you are saying, we don’t care what the evidence is. We are right, now prove us wrong’. And you go through agony to get them to admit something they could have admitted on day one. So the culture of the place is absolutely arrogant and rife with ‘we are never wrong’.”
But this all happened 25 years ago, the BBC bleats. The culture at the BBC is very different now.
Really? Is that why they get to label their opinions as a ‘BBC Fact Check’ nowadays? And presumably it was this new order of humility that was on show on Newsnight yesterday evening when Kirsty Wark ‘Fact Checked’ her interviewee in the following exchange:
Interviewee: “Dyson leaves hanging who authorised the smear campaign and cover up but does say it had to be senior management.”
Kirsty: “Well it [the Dyson report] doesn’t say a cover up specifically, those words are not being used.”
Interviewee (smiling): “It does say a cover up in fact.”
Kirsty: “Well, err, I’m going to come onto you and what happened to you…”
The reality is that the facts are as safe in the BBC’s hands nowadays as the children were on Jim’ll Fix It back in the seventies. And yet their role as self-appointed guardians of the truth continues. The fact-mongering behemoth lumbers on with such dodgy products as Climate Change: The Facts. Society’s paranoia regarding the prospects of future climate apocalypse are being fuelled just as effectively by the BBC’s suspect advice as was Diana’s paranoia regarding her positon within the Royal Family. And there is plenty more in the production pipeline, I’m quite sure. I don’t think that that particular sewerage system will be decommissioned any time soon, because the sad fact is that an organization that has been shown to be capable of the most shameful of manipulations can still enjoy the public’s favour when surrounded by a bunch of climate change ‘deniers’. This is a day when I should be rejoicing the demise of a main player in the debate. Instead, I am only reminded of the extent to which the campaign is already lost.
The BBC has its headquarters at W1A 1AA, but you should need more than just a satnav to locate the moral high ground.