Nobody is ever ‘invited’ to appear before Margaret Hodge and the Commons public accounts committee. They are always ‘hauled’ before her. Thus it was with a whole phalanx of BBC executives, past and present, this afternoon.
There are really two things which came out of the appearance of Lord (Chris) Patten, Mark Thompson et al. The first is the obvious reminder that the BBC has become a strangely upside-down organisation of late. Rich in senior management, it has spent recent years farming out major portions of news and other programme-making, apparently so that it could concentrate on the really important task of management. Of course the BBC is not the only public body to have suffered this upside-down-itis.
But the second point is an equally simple one: the BBC Trust is not the way to run the BBC. The creation of the trust was an absolutely archetypal piece of New Labour institutional tinkering /wrecking. I do hope that, after events like today, there can be a growing realisation of this fact and that when the charter comes up for renewal in a few years the BBC Trust will go the way of all such wasteful extravagances.