12 November 2012
A response to the resignation of the BBC director-general
On Saturday evening the director-general of the BBC, George Entwistle, resigned in the wake of the recent scandals over the reporting by Newsnight of child abuse.
In the last six weeks three of the BBC's most senior editorial leaders have left the corporation. There must be questions about the future of some of the other editorial figures implicated in the events. There is no doubt that the BBC is going through very difficult waters indeed.
The BBC is a vitally important part of the media landscape in the UK and beyond. It aspires to, and almost invariably upholds, the very highest standards in journalism and in all of its other output. In many ways the BBC sets the benchmark for other broadcasters. We also need to recognise that the BBC has its political and commercial enemies – those who feel that the whole idea of publicly-funded broadcasting is anathema.
It's important that those of us who care about the media should hold the BBC to the highest standards. It's also important that we defend the BBC when it is vulnerable. There's no doubt that the BBC is vulnerable now, with a leadership vacuum at the very time when it has to face such difficult issues. But although it is vulnerable it is not holed below the water-line. Some are talking about a lack of trust in the BBC – though I doubt if that will be reflected in a fall in its audiences. It's more likely that the events at the BBC, which were kicked-off not by malice amongst programme-makers but by the wickedness of a former presenter, will simply compound the much wider loss of public trust in national institutions. That trust will take time to rebuild, and a strong and stable BBC is a vital part of the rebuilding. So I would invite those who have faith to contribute to the rebuilding of trust in the BBC in whatever ways we can. Let's defend what is good, be guarded in our criticisms and compassionate in our treatment of individuals.
George Entwistle's resignation tonight is an immensely courageous act by a good man. It is a recognition that those high standards to which the BBC aspires haven't been met, and that those standards are more important than his own position. I would encourage you to pray for George, his wife Jane and their children.
Please pray for the other key figures too – for Tim Davie, who will be Acting Director-General, and for the Chair of the BBC Trust Lord Patten who will have a crucial role in steadying the ship over the coming months. And please pray too for the many BBC staff who are continuing to do their jobs with skill and integrity in a very stormy climate.
Director, The Church and Media Network