Published on November 22, 2012 | by Myriah Towner


The BBC crisis can only make them stronger

Front view of the BBC Media Centre in White City, West London

Can the BBC be trusted? [Harriet Coombs]

As the BBC continues to come to grips with its recent crisis over Newsnight, the corporation, which is held by many as a reputable source for trustworthy reporting, has had to answer questions about whether it still upholds sound journalistic standards.

Newsnight plunged the BBC into turmoil after it initially canceled a child abuse segment highlighting abuse allegations against Jimmy Savile, and then broadcast a segment wrongly accusing a senior member of the Conservative party of being a paedophile.

The Newsnight program is being investigated both internally and externally, involving the British government’s communication regulator, and the BBC has also reached an out of court settlement with the man named on Twitter after the programme.

As a result of the scandal, the BBC has come in for much criticism over its bureaucratic procedures, leadership, and its trustworthiness, especially from those opposed to the licence fee. A poll by YouGov revealed that 44 percent of the public trust BBC journalists more than journalists from any other organisation, giving the BBC the title as the most trusted media organisation and perhaps giving it a bit of encouragement.

However, in light of the recent scandal, many are beginning to have doubts over their trust in the BBC, as it is urged to be accountable for its performance. In the interim, the BBC has continued to deliver strong content amidst the ongoing events.

As Gill Corkindale, a writer based in London, reported in the Harvard Business Review: “While the BBC’s embattled chiefs fight to save their jobs and haemorrhaging reputations, the loyal programme-makers calmly carry on, reporting the news (their corporation’s scandals included) and delivering the quality TV and radio programmes for which the BBC is renowned.”

To move forward though, important questions must be asked at this point including, what is the BBC planning to do to restore the public’s trust in its institution? What will it put in place to correct its failed systems? Another important question posed by Corkindale is “What is the BBC’s leadership strategy and how will the corporation develop a new cadre of leaders?”

Perhaps these are questions any organisation dealing with an issue of this scale should ask themselves, but to move on from this as a stronger institution, the issues the BBC has to address include; the level of responsibilities and effectiveness of each leader, how to effectively manage crises in the future, ways to reconstruct its structure filled with exhaustive procedures, and the importance of it remaining a public-service broadcaster.

There is hope, at least, in those who believe in what the BBC stands for has not been lost, as with anything there comes mistakes and struggles, as UAL Chairman and former Newsnight presenter, John Tusa, says.

As quoted in a film called The Butterfly Circus, “The greater the struggle, the more glorious the triumph,” and hopefully this struggle will lead to the BBC re-assessing the way it works as an organisation, and coming out of this crisis much stronger.


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