As Fran Unsworth seeks to curb BBC dissent - how corporation's journalistic stars have savaged its management - Press Gazette

As Fran Unsworth seeks to curb BBC dissent - how corporation's journalistic stars have savaged its management

After a week in which some of the most senior figures at the BBC have savaged the managerial decision-making that led to the Newsnight debacle, it has emerged  that acting head of news Fran Unsworth is trying to stifle dissenting voices within the corporation.

She told staff in a memo yesterday that "it would be helpful if some of our problems were not played out publicly across social media and in the pages of the national press".

BBC presenter David Dimbleby is among those who have spoken out about the corporation's failings.

Speaking to John Humphrys on Monday's Today Programme, he said: "The fact he [George Entwistle] chose to resign rather than fight showed that he wasn’t actually the right choice for director general."

“Admirable man though he may be, the fact that didn’t fight back against you [Humphrys] on Saturday shows he wasn’t the right man to lead the BBC.

“If you are going to be the director general you have to fight for the organisation and you have got to fight for the many people who work for it.”

Dimbleby also attacked the bureaucratic structure at the BBC, criticised the board of trustees system. and questioned the organisation’s decision to scrap the old board of governors system.

He said: “Bureacrats, when they are asked to cut back on the scale of the BBC and its costs immediately increase the number of managers to deal with the cuts and the people who suffer are the people who do the real work.”

He praised the work of “dedicated” journalists working at the BBC and criticised the organisation for cutting back on editorial staff while creating more management positions.

Dimbleby insisted that Lord Patten should not himself resign and believes that the BBC can emerge from its current “crisis” in a stronger position, saying: “You never want a good crisis to go to waste.”

'Cowards and incompetents'

Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman also joined the attacked this week, particularlyl the nature of Entwistle’s departure.

"He has been brought low by cowards and incompetents," said Paxman.

“The real problem here is the BBC’s decision, in the wake of the Hutton Inquiry, to play safe by appointing biddable people.”

Like Dimbleby, Paxman criticised the BBC for cutting programme budgets and journalists while “bloating the management”.

“That is how you arrive at the current mess on Newsnight. I very much doubt the problem is unique to that programme,” he said.

“I had hoped that George might stay to sort this out. It is a great pity that a talented man has been sacrificed. While time-servers prosper.”

'Savage cuts'

Foreign correspondent John Simpson also sided with Dimbleby.

“Over-management has been a serious blight on the BBC since the Eighties,” he wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.

“In spite of everyone’s best intentions, the real weight of the savage cuts that have been imposed on the BBC since the licence-fee agreement of 2010 has fallen on the programme-makers and broadcasters.”

He suggested that these cuts may have directly led to the mistaken report by Newsnight that led to Lord McAlpine being implicated in child abuse.

Simpson claimed that licence-fee payers – who he described as “effectively our shareholders” – will require nothing less than “a thorough, radical, structural overhaul”, as promised by chairman of the BBC Trust Lord Patten.

He also suggested Entwistle had too many areas to cover in his role as director-general. Simpson said Entwistle's job was “simply too big” and suggested the BBC take up a “Cabinet government” system, in which different people are in charge of different departments.



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