Thanks to the ‘Savile-gate’ scandal, the BBC is on the rack as never before.
And it’s doubtful good, old Auntie – as Brits have affectionately dub the state-owned broadcaster for decades – will ever emerge the same, grand chatelaine of the nation’s image again, when probes into paedophilia, iffy editorial judgement calls and management bungling are over.
Even veteran World Affairs Editor John Simpson admits it is ‘the worst crisis’ to hit the Beeb in the 50 years he’s globe-trotted on its behalf.
That’s even a slight understatement, because the situation Auntie finds herself in – corsets tightening to near asphyxiation – gets acutely more critical by the day.
As the police lift layer after rancid layer off Savile’s reign as ‘probably the worst serial paedophile Britain has seen’ – to quote one senior detective – and question alleged aides (i.e. Gary Glitter) in his obsession with abusing vulnerable, under-age girls, other explosive revelations are primed to detonate.
Plods working on Operation Yewtree, codename for the Savile inquiry, say they have up to 400 leads and believe ‘eight to ten BBC insiders’ are in the frame to be grilled. This, I understand, does not necessarily include a host of celebs, who owe their fame to Auntie’s largesse. So, be prepared for further shocks.
It all promises to be a real smack in the eye for the purblind apologists, who castigate the media for posing fair questions why the BBC didn’t investigate Savile (and allegations of a rampant sex-fest in Radio 1’s heyday of the 1970s and 80s) earlier, when the rumour mill was in full grind.
What went on, contend those defending the indefensible, were aberrations that should be put into the context of an era of unfettered debauchery and the BBC’s ethos should remain unchallenged, its output the envy of the world.
Though I agree with the general gist that the BBC is uniquely exceptional – certainly in terms of popular entertainment, the arts, culture, even soaps – perhaps it’s also uniquely haughty.
So to blame the Press as vengefully picking at Aunties bones is not a moral stance. It merely reflects a minority’s dread that any overdue swilling out of the Broadcasting House pigsty will see their right-on self-righteousness replaced by opinion-formers more accurately reflecting mainstream values.
And, hopefully, what will dawn is the realisation that an Orwellian regime far too big for its boots can no longer be trusted to regulate itself and sweep any self-inflicted scandals under its plush carpets.
At least one BBC heavyweight has emerged with credit. Sir Roger Jones, a former governor, heeded the rumours swirling round ‘creepy’ Savile a decade ago and banned the weirdo from appearing on Children In Need.
Aside from the grotesque perv and the controversial axing of a Newsnight probe into him, recently there have been numerous instances of BBC brazen arrogance, like the fork-tongued half-truths about the millions in licence-fee payers moolah paid to top performers.
With a heel-turn worthy of Strictly Come Dancing, the issue was deviously defused. No names, no pack drills were released, just amounts, which amounted to zilch without the public knowing exactly who the humungous fees-earners were.
Then came the scandal of 148 presenters – countless familiar faces – worming their way through tax loopholes, by declaring themselves ‘companies’, thus escaping draconian PAYE, as paid by us plebs, despite the BBC being their main employer.
Ever amenable Auntie turned a blind eye to such ‘creative tax avoidance’ until HM Customs and Revenue threatened to intervene.
And whatever happened to the mysterious Balen Report of 2004, which examined charges of ‘anti-Israel bias’ in BBC coverage of the Middle East? Despite a Freedom of Information request, Michael Balen’s findings were – and still are – kept under padlock, Auntie having coughed up £350,000 to my learned friends to keep them secret.
In fact, all too often the old girl’s been caught with her knickers down, setting the agenda, rather than complying with the BBC’s Charter to report the world with ‘due accuracy and impartiality’.
Back in the 1990s, for instance, it barely hid its gusto for Britain joining the €uro. And last year, global-warming zealot, Lord Chris Patten – chairman of the BBC Trust, guardians of the corporation’s waning credibility – endorsed a controversial report calling for more bias on climate change, rather than less or even to striking a fair balance.
This, again, is symptomatic of an organisation the Daily Telegraph’s Peter Oborne recently criticised as, ‘colonised and captured by a narrow, greedy, self-interested and self-perpetuating liberal elite, contemptuous of ordinary people and of ordinary morality.’
So the question is: Can the BBC still be trusted with the crown jewels of the nation’s integrity?
According to its own opinion poll last week, the answer is ‘No’.
And if the faceless power-brokers haunting Auntie’s crumbling Ivory Tower don’t get that message, they shouldn’t be there.