Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale questions future of BBC trust chairman over Savile affair
08:40 24 October 2012
Sir Roger says Lord Patten is “out of touch”
Thanet North MP Sir Roger Gale has called into question the future of the chairman of the BBC Trust Lord Patten.
It follows a veiled warning in a letter to culture secretary Maria Miller regarding the Jimmy Savile scandal and criticism over the BBC, sugesting the Government should not question the corporation’s editorial independence.
Sir Gale, a former BBC producer and director, said: “Chris Patten is an old friend and a former parliamentary colleague for whom I have had a high regard.
“But in his comment he has made it clear that he is out of touch not only with the strength of feeling and concern in parliament about the Savile affair and related matters but more importantly with the strength of public revulsion at what has happened at television centre and with the corporate culture that, for the best part of forty years, has apparently covered it up.
“Attack may be the best form of defence but in seeking to criticise a culture secretary who has not, ever, sought to challenge the independence of the BBC he indicates how very little, within that corporate arrogance, has really changed.
“The “Auntie knows best” line simply does not wash any more. BBC management, over far too many years, has sought to maintain an imperious disdain for criticism and it has become clear that successive directors-general have, while happy to criticise others for not answering difficult questions, either turned a blind eye to criminal activities or have not known what has been going on on their own doorstep, which is also culpable.
“Lord Patten has regurgitated the original BBC defence of the decision to pull the Newsnight investigation and, in the light of subsequent events and revelations, has so far as I am aware not apologised for so doing.
“George Entwistle, as the current director-general, has been hung out to dry while having very little responsibility for these matters and the Newsnight editor, Peter Rippon, would appear to be the fall-guy for years of BBC self-preservation.
“Who is seriously challenging those earlier editors-in-chief, John Birt, Greg Dyke and, most particularly the man who was in the hot seat when the Newsnight decision was taken, Mark Thompson?
“Thompson was paid nearly a quarter of a million pounds of license fee money a year to, apparently, not know what was going on under his own roof.
“It is as if your favourite and respectable Aunt has been revealed to be on the game and if Lord Patten is not able to grasp that then I fear that not only the director general but also the chairman of the BBC Trust are going to have to fall on their swords.
“If the true independence of the BBC, which is vital as our public service broadcaster, is to be maintained and if public trust is to be restored then what is needed is a clearout of senior management and a change in the culture of self-righteousness and the injection of a little humility.”