Online Reputation Management Blog

Surviving the BBC Scandal

The British Broadcasting Channel (BBC) has long been loyal to its great entertainers.  So many shows and personalities have emerged over the past 90 years, entertaining and informing not just the millions of people in Great Britain, but audiences all over the world.  However, allegations against Jimmy Savile have severely damaged the BBC’s reputation and created a communications crisis for the venerable broadcasting company.

Jimmy Savile, who died last year at 84, was the star of the 1960s and 1970s BBC shows, “Top of the Pops” and “Jim’ll Fix It.”  This entertainer was so dearly loved that when it was suggested that Savile might have been assaulted underage teenage girls, according to the Wall Street Journal, BBC chairman George Entwistle seemed to ignore the overwhelming evidence pointing to the entertainer’s guilt.  Instead of heeding these reports and airing an expose from his network’s own “Newsnight”, Entwistle instead shelved the reports and approved several holiday tributes of Savile on the BBC instead, according to news reports.

Entwistle’s refusal to run the expose was not taken lightly as reports of Savile’s alleged pedophilia spread throughout the world, and an expose about the entertainer aired on a rival network, ITV.   But that one incident is hardly enough to cause the resignation of the BBC’s top executive.  It took another botched news report right on the heels of the Savile issue to truly force the BBC top management to clean house.

“Newsnight– keen to salvage it’s truth in journalism reputation, subsequently decided to pursue a different investigation, reported the Wall Street Journal “… into sex abuse at a children’s home in Wales dating to the 1970s and 1980s…the program appeared to accuse 70-year-old Alistair McAlpine of committing sexual abuse and gave the former House of Lords member no opportunity to reply.”  Later, the Wall Street Journal reported that McAlpine issued a detailed denial and the alleged abuse victim said he had identified the wrong man to the BBC.

Entwistle announced his resignation a few weeks later and the BBC appointed a former journalist who runs the Royal Opera House, Tony Hall, according to the Montreal Gazette.

So what happened? In a few short weeks, the BBC spiraled into a drama suitable for one of its televised shows. Entwistle had only been on the job for 55 days when his tenure was brought to an abrupt end.

Two of the most senior figures at the BBC said Tuesday that there had been “elementary” failures of the organization’s journalism and “appalling editorial judgment” according to the New York Times. “The BBC tells the truth about itself, even when the truth is appalling,” chairman of the BBC trust, Chris Patten said in a New York Times article. The New York Times continues: “(Patten) contrasted the broadcaster’s readiness to clean its stables with what he said had been an opaque and truculent reaction among Britain’s newspapers when confronted by their own scandals.”

Journalists, public relations heavyweights and reputation management companies will debate the appropriate next step for restoring the BBC’s trust and credibility.  What do you think the BBC should do next?

About Todd William

Foodie. Bruce Springsteen fan. Citizen of Red Sox Nation. Online reputation management strategist. Founder of Reputation Rhino. For more, follow us @reputationrhino

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