Politics alert!


I don’t often comment on BBC politics or indeed any BBC matters apart from language use, but here goes:

In the now notorious interview that George Entwistle gave to John Humphrys on the Radio 4 “Today” programme last Saturday morning, Mr Entwistle admitted to not being aware of the front-page article in the Guardian newspaper on the subject of the ‘Newsnight’ report on child abuse.

When I worked at the BBC, there was a department called “News Information”, which seemed terribly wasteful, but served a vital purpose. Every British national daily newspaper was cut up overnight, and every article (with very few exceptions) marked for its subject matter. This entailed the full attention of several people – the markers, and the cutters, who did nothing but physically cut up the papers. Some articles were necessarily marked for several topics. The end result was a formidable cuttings collection. Every morning, by 9.30, a copy of every article relevant to the BBC was on the desk of all top management. Once newspapers were available on line, this may have stopped, but in those days no executive could claim that (s)he was unaware of a contentious issue.

Even if Mr Entwistle was engaged in meetings on other matters constantly on the day the Guardian published its report, surely his PA should have alerted him to it? I imagine that it was Mr Entwistle’s candid admission on air that led to his resignation later that day.

The economics of cutting up newspapers may be crazy, but the old system would surely have led to a different result in the current case.

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