Thompson’s last dance? 

15 December 2008 tbs.pm/995

Strictly Come Dancing voting fiasco sparks 200 complaints

Although the BBC has promised to carry over all phone votes on this occasion so avoiding any direct accusations of fraud, the inability to plan properly for a particular outcome does carry some very unwelcome echoes of numerous aspects of BBC policy that have been publicly visible over the last few months (and years).

The corporation has recently appeared to lack direction on numerous occasions in relation to everything from relocating R&D staff at Kingswood Warren (or not), privatising BBC Resources (or not), and internal reorganisations that have been made and then subsequently undone because they didn’t work for whatever reason.

It seems that the BBC Trust was losing patience with Mark Thompson during the last ‘Sachsgate’ crisis, so whether or not the Strictly Come Dancing fiasco will be the one final thing that forces the Trust into making its first pivotal management decision – ie. to sack Mark Thompson – remains to be seen.

On the surface it’s fairly unlikely to happen, but judging from the defensive tone that the Trust was forced to adopt during Sachsgate, this option could now be actively considered if a final ultimatum had been previously issued by the Trust to Mark Thompson behind closed doors.

Of course much of what has happened recently was due to mistakes made by junior staff for a variety of reasons, but senior management is still to blame for an apparent lack of direction, abdication of ultimate responsibility and a drop in general morale.

The BBC Trust will have to decide at what point it needs to do something major in order to draw a line under all of what has happened recently. Plus if Ofcom feels that it needs to intervene yet again, the issue of Ofcom being the “last resort regulator” for the BBC outside of taste and decency judgements ought to ring internal alarm bells at the Trust.

Perhaps the BBC could arrange another phone vote in order to decide the final outcome – not to judge the fate of the remaining dancers, but whether or not Mark Thompson ought to be sacked. But I suspect that the verdict on this occasion would be unanimous.