We should elect the BBC Director General

Posted on November 11, 2012

The scandal rushing through the offices and studios of the BBC has many sources – horrifying historic sex offences on a staggering scale, poor journalism making it to air due to an apparent panic within Newsnight and a disastrous failure of management at the very top have all played their part.

The results of the crisis are clear to see. The Director General has gone under the professional guillotine. Newsnight’s future is in doubt. Less than half of the public, who fund the Corporation, now think it is trustworthy (according to a ComRes poll carried out before the erroneous report aired and Entwhistle resigned). Infighting has gone public, with various famous faces slugging it out in the press.

The question now is how to solve this mess.

Simply hoping that the next DG, and all of his or her successors, will have a better approach to crisis management than the beleaguered George Entwhistle, is not enough. As the misappointment of “Incurious George” showed, the current system cannot guarantee it will always pick the right candidate.

Not only is the appointment process flawed. Entwhistle’s flailing attempts to hide behind protocol and process rather than step up and deal with the scandal showed that the position itself has a fatal lack of legitimacy and authority.

The next Director General must be selected through a process which is transparent, which openly tests their abilities and policies, and which confers on the winner a genuine authority and legitimacy. In short, the Director General of the BBC should be elected by the licence fee paying public – an electorate who, through a recall power, should also be able to sack them if they so wish.

Only that way will we end the oddity of the people’s broadcaster (and its multi-billion pound budget) being run by an anonymous suit anointed by Lord Patten for reasons unknown. Only that way will we prevent a re-run of the farce in which the Editor-In-Chief of a publicly-owned Corporation seems surprised that the public expect him to answer to them when things go wrong. Only that way will the people be willing to place their trust once more in the BBC’s discredited leadership.

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Categories: Opinion, Politics, Public spending

5 Responses

  1. SadButMadLad:

    Democracy is hardly ever the answer. Electing PCCs isn’t going to be working, so out won’t work for the DG. What it needs is to be totally privatised so that if it does make mistakes the public can vote by not partying for their subscriptions. That wil keep them on their toes. As it is no matter what mistakes the BBC makes it if not ready punished. No more state propaganda, left or right.

    11.11.2012 18:06 Reply

  2. Dave Bradley:

    The problem with the “democracy is always the answer” brigade to problems like the BBC is the fact that when people vote in this country they tend to vote along party lines so we will end up with totally politicisng the BBC just like electing PCCs is now doing to the police the only way it would work would be if all the candidate were to stand as Independant candidates

    11.11.2012 19:22 Reply

  3. Dia Chakravarty: The BBC has got to change, but will the fee-payers have a say? | The Freedom Association:

    […] from Tim Davie, the acting Director-General? Mark Wallace made an eloquent case for this in his blog yesterday. Robert Halfon MP had put forward a similar case for accountability when he introduced […]

    12.11.2012 08:31 Reply

  4. George Mulberry:

    Why not combine both Mark and SBML’s suggestions: make the licence fee a subscription fee and turn the beeb into a consumer co-op owned by its subscribers, who would then be able to vote on leadership etc?

    13.11.2012 15:27 Reply

  5. sylvesterthecat:

    The trouble with electing a BBC DG is that you would give political legitimacy. Imagine say, a ‘man of the left’ is elected. Any left bias of BBC programming is now legitimised, ‘because the people have voted for it’
    Don’t you think these is enough discussion regarding the licence fee as it is without adding a poisonous political element to the argument?

    17.11.2012 14:17 Reply

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