The wrong answers 

24 June 2009 tbs.pm/1070

BBC’s Mark Thompson attacks plans to ‘top-slice’ licence fee

BBC pledges crackdown on ‘intrusive and humiliating’ broadcasts

If politicians tend to live in a world of their own, as evidenced by the recent MP’s expenses scandals, then broadcasters also tend to live in a world of their own making, as evidenced by their recent premium rate interactivity scandals as well as someone being disciplined over the naming of a cat on Blue Peter.

Put another way, if Mark Thompson and people like him within the broadcasting industry were more openly communicative in relation to what they do and how they do it, as opposed to constantly assuming that “they’re always right” or by being too obsessed with minute details, then current BBC-Government relations could at least be a bit easier.

It took Mark Thompson a whole week to give a formal response to the final Digital Britain report, and his response to the previous first draft was almost as slow; indeed the BBC Trust responded to both reports much faster than Mark Thompson did. Which looks bad whichever way you look at it, even if Thompson had some justification for being late to the party.

Then there’s the potentially oppressive response that has also been given to the recent ‘Sachsgate’ scandal, which promises to crack down on “intrusive and humiliating broadcasts” (whatever that will entail).

Yes it’s true that both Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross badly overstepped the mark when it came to that infamous broadcast, but the real problem lay with the system that was already in place to protect against such a failure but at the same time gives enough creative freedom so as not to stifle genuine freedom of expression.

If someone presses the ejector seat button in a fighter aircraft, only the pilot has himself to blame for subsequently hurtling to the ground as a consequence. Likewise, if both a producer and a channel controller fails to spot a glaring problem in relation to broadcast compliance, then they are to blame for not doing their jobs properly.

And nobody else.

Adding another layer of bureaucracy to the BBC’s output betrays a lack of confidence in both its staff and middle management, and when that happens it’s no wonder that certain outsiders also tend to lose faith in the BBC as a consequence.

And based on recent events, it’s almost as if senior BBC management have no control whatsoever over their staff, and – ultimately – no trust in their actions.