Can it get any worse for the BBC? It’s hard to think so, although you never know what’s around the corner.
The resignation of Director General George Entwistle in the aftermath of the latest Newsnight scandal after just 53 days in the job comes just weeks after the Jimmy Savile horrors, a scarcely believable saga.
In entirely separate matters, here in the West Midlands we have been shocked by the apparent suicide of 50-year-old Russell Joslin of BBC Coventry and Warwickshire, who said in a text to a friend that he had come to ‘loathe’ the ‘entire mindset’ of the BBC.
Of far less tragic proportions, but still recent, we have the on-air rant of Danny Baker, who called his bosses ‘pinhead weasels’ after his BBC London show was being axed.
In the slightly less recent past, former Question Time presenter Peter Sissons has described an all-pervasive mindset at Auntie, with inertia and fear of decision-making rife. And Jeremy Paxman has likened executives to a “dodgy plumber skulking away from a flooded bathroom”.
And, again here in the West Midlands, there have been accusations of systematic bullying at BBC Midlands Today and the controversial departure of long-serving presenter Suzanne Virdee, who is suing the Beeb at an employment tribunal.
Where is the dignity in all this? This is, after all, an institution described as the finest broadcasting organisation in the world – but these days it seems more often a cross between Winston Smith’s Big Brother experiences and Fawlty Towers.
The BBC, which is 90 years old this week, has given the world the likes of Richard Dimbleby, John Arlott, Dad’s Army, the aforementioned Fawlty, world-class drama, the Archers, Sports Report, Test Match Special, Match of the Day and so much more.
It has been the soundtrack to millions and millions of people’s lives, and the world would be immeasurably poorer without its contribution to culture over virtually an entire century. It has been a touchstone of civilisation, a peerless broadcasting beacon which has shone a light into the darkest nooks and crannies.
But these days it seems to resemble nothing so much as a crotchety maiden aunt at war with herself, wasting all energy on endless navel-gazing.
It would be foolish to deny that the BBC boasts great creative talents. But, like all talents, they can only flourish when nurtured, not suffocated.