New BBC boss must be media front man

There is something very British and endearing about the way in which the BBC duffs itself up when things go wrong.

George Eustice: 'What did for Entwistle was his inability to handle aggressive media interviews and to remain steady under fire.'
George Eustice: 'What did for Entwistle was his inability to handle aggressive media interviews and to remain steady under fire.'

Last weekend, George Entwistle finally threw in the towel as director-general following some serious errors of judgement by Newsnight and his run of lacklustre performances on BBC programmes as he tried to defend them. He had been in place for only seven weeks.

Entwistle must think someone is out to get him. No sooner had he taken up his post than the Jimmy Savile scandal exploded, setting off a chain of events. The decision by Newsnight not to pursue the story a year ago led to allegations of a cover-up at the BBC. An internal investigation was set up that meant some of the most experienced producers and editors on the programme were recused from working on the programme while investigations were carried out. 

That contributed to the second and more serious error: Newsnight’s decision to falsely report that a senior figure from the Thatcher government had been involved in a paedophile ring without carrying out basic checks first. In one final cock-up, a media lawyer working for the programme apparently gave the package the green light.

What did for Entwistle in the end was his inability to handle aggressive media interviews and to remain steady under fire. Insiders say he is an intelligent man and had the right ideas about how to reorganise the BBC and sort out the problems in the many tiers of middle management. But whoever is at the top has to be able to handle the media and face the music when things go wrong. 

It is surprising that a former producer at the BBC, who worked on developing aggressive and unforgiving lines of questioning for politicians, seemed unable to predict and prepare for the line of attack that John Humphrys would take with him.

The BBC must now dust itself off and get back in the saddle, finding a new director-general who is capable of being a media front man as well as managing the huge national institution.

George Eustice is Conservative MP for Camborne and Redruth and a former press secretary to David Cameron

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