Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Why Chris Patten should be toast

The Chairman of the BBC, Lord Patten, may have just about survived his grilling by the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons today. However, his performance certainly has not done him much good. His answers revealed a breathtaking degree of arrogance which he could have done without. In particular his decision to reward the outgoing General director George Entwistle for a 52 day stint in his job with about half a million pounds beggars belief. Lord Patten did not even seriously attempt to justify his waste of public money to the MPs and instead simply lectured them that there was no alternative to this largesse. 

Undoubtedly the Committee will not be happy about this state of affairs and Patten should brace himself for a critical report. However, he himself seems to feel immune to criticism as long as he has the confidence of the Secretary for Culture, Maria Miller. Why Patten should remain in his job after he appointed a staggeringly incompetent BBC insider to the main job, and subsequently failed to address the serious failings in the BBC governance is a mystery. 

As one of the committee members commented during the meeting, Patten seems to think that his responsibility for oversight does not mean that he should be held responsible for anything when things go wrong. This peculiar detachment from whatever goes on in the BBC may just save him for now, but it certainly does not do the BBC any good. Patten appears unable to establish proper governance procedures in the BBC and it will only be a question of time when the next scandal breaks. Then it will be even more difficult to hide behind others. 

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