Chris Patten, a British diplomat who negotiated Hong Kong’s transition to Chinese control who is now the chairman of the BBC governing trust, said on November 11 that unless the state-controlled media dinosaur makes significant changes it could be doomed to extinction. "The basis for the BBC's position in this country is the trust that people have in it," Patten said. "If the BBC loses that, it's over."Patten said that public confidence in the BBC must be restored in order to compete with private media conglomerates such as Rupert Murdoch’s media behemoth. "If you're saying, 'Does the BBC need a thorough structural radical overhaul?', then absolutely it does, and that is what we will have to do," said Patten, who was once a senior member of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party.
Patten’s warning came after the resignation of BBC Director General George Entwhistle on November 10, who had but two months in the job. Entwhistle threw in the towel and took the blame for the airing false child sex abuse allegations against Alistair McAlpine, a former politician. Entwistle said the report, broadcast on November 2, reflected “unacceptable journalistic standards” and should not have been broadcast.
McAlpine’s lawyer announced on November 9 that a suit would be filed to clear the politician’s name. Allegations emerged from a BBC report on the ‘Newsnight’ program. The BBC had already been severely criticized for cancelling an investigation in 2011 of child rape and sexual abuse, some it committed on BBC premises, against BBC personality Jimmy Savile. The wildly popular TV host of the 1970s and 1980s died at the age of 84 in October 2011. For part of that period, incoming New York Times director Mark Thompson was an executive at the BBC. Thompson’s judgment and suitability for the New York Times position has since been called into question.
Known in the British Isles as “Auntie”, the BBC is currently celebrated its 90th anniversary, even while its detractors say it is hampered by an overly bureaucratic and hierarchical management style. Currently it has 22,000 staff members working at eight national TV channels, 50 radio stations and an extensive internet presence.
There are reports that this style worsened under the helm of Thompson, the former Director General. Thompson took over during the last major crisis to hit the BBC. In that instance, both director general and chairman were forced to quit when the broadcaster was chastised by a public inquiry into alleged governmental improprieties in the buildup to the second Iraq war. It is since that time, says Jeremy Paxman of Newsnight, that BBC had grown unwieldy even while funds were being cut from other budgets. Paxman echoed the sentiments of BBC staff that the Director General Entwhistle had suffered a bad turn on the part of senior management when he said in a statement, "He has been brought low by cowards and incompetents." Prime Minister Cameron expressed optimism that the BBC can be saved, say it that it is "one of the great institutions of this country."
BBC Patten has dismissed calls for his own resignation. However, he did admit that there were significant challenges to overcome in reforming the aged broadcasting concern. "Apparently decisions about the program went up through every damned layer of BBC management, bureaucracy, legal checks - and still emerged," he said. "One of the jokes I made, and actually it wasn't all that funny, when I came to the BBC ... was that there were more senior leaders in the BBC than there were in the Chinese Communist Party."
In Britain, investigations into the activities of Jimmy Savile and his collaborators are underway. Last week, police arrested a man in his 70s in Cambridgeshire, not far from London, on November 11. Victims, mostly women, are believed to be planning litigation to obtain compensation for damages incurred by what has been described as a paedophile ring operating under the auspices of the BBC. MailOnline wrote in October 2012 of Savile, “The picture they paint is of a ‘classic’ child abuser, targeting vulnerable youngsters at schools, hospitals and children’s homes….He plied them with treats—under the noses of teachers, doctors and BBC managers—and took them for rides in his Rolls-Royce….Savile sexually abused them in his car, his BBC dressing room, on hospital wards and in the bedrooms of girls at Duncroft boarding school in Surrey.” Savile was a member of the Knights of Malta, a Catholic philanthropic organization.
Janet Cope, who worked for Savile for 32 years, now describes the flamboyant entertainer thus: “He was like Peter Pan, forever surrounding himself with youngsters.” Julie Fernandez, a disabled actress, confessed in October that Savile groped her when she was 14. Savile is also accused of preying on children at the Duncroft home for emotionally disturbed girls. At least five former pupils from Duncroft have said accused Savile. One of them said, “Jimmy treated Duncroft like a paedophile sweet shop.” Questioned why Savile was not reported, former pupil Toni Townsend said, “The girls at Duncroft had been sent there by the courts for prostitution, drugs and because they tried to kill themselves…Who would have believed us against Saint Jimmy?”