Darcus Howe: If the BBC Is in Trouble, It Will Undermine the Rest of British Broadcasting

Article excerpt

I have spent the past 25 years of my life in the broadcasting business, having worked at ITV, the BBC (radio and TV) and Channel 4. Always, the BBC was the core around which all else functioned. For example, at Channel 4, all the chief executives had worked at the BBC: Jeremy Isaacs (former producer of Panorama), Michael Grade and Michael Jackson (both former BBC TV directors of programmes), and now Mark Thompson (formerly BBC director of television).

The second-line leadership is also drawn largely from the BBC, as are most of the independent sector programme-makers. Unless you understand that, you cannot understand the BBC.

It is equally important to understand that, prior to Greg Dyke's entry as director general, the big ship was listing badly. John (now Lord) Brit had introduced the internal market by diktat. He did not take the staff along with him, leaving disenchantment in every nook and cranny of the organisation. Scores of experienced staff left. Dyke had begun to resettle the BBC. He was as good as any of his predecessors and probably better than most.

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But always at such moments of transition, when the old is finished and the new not quite established, an organisation is vulnerable to an imp or two. …