Charles Moore Charles Moore

The Spectator’s Notes | 15 November 2012

David Dimbleby is right that the BBC is bedevilled by managerialism. He makes an apt comparison with the National Health Service, where his wife, who works in mental health, reports similar horrors. But no one goes on to ask why this is so. It is assumed that the answer is to appoint robust journalists (or, in the case of the NHS, doctors) instead of ‘suits’. Unfortunately, this is not so, dismal though the suits are. The BBC is hopelessly managed because, as George Entwistle himself put it while being waterboarded by John Humphrys on Saturday, ‘The organisation is too big. There is too much journalism going on.’ This is absolutely inevitable if the BBC continues to be an organisation trying to offer all types of broadcasting. And that, in turn, is inevitable, because of the way it is compulsorily funded by almost everyone who owns a television. The BBC, aged 90 this week, is therefore unmanageable. It is also conflicted. It has so many interests that its editor-in-chief is seen to be acting improperly if he intervenes in programmes. Therefore he doesn’t intervene, and therefore he can’t edit. It is as if the editor of a newspaper was not allowed to see the front page until after it had been published. Nothing can change this except break-up, and different methods of funding. The same is true of the NHS. But British people, being sentimental, refuse to see that the fault lies with the nature of the institutions even more than their personnel. And so disaster after disaster ensues.

If we are to talk of personnel, however, I wonder if the BBC will adopt the modern, diversity-oriented, 21st-century solution to all establishment leadership problems, which is to appoint an Etonian. At present, I can think of only one on the staff, nice Bill Turnbull, who appears at breakfast.

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