BBC’s troubles fodder for an envious rival



Last modified: Sunday, November 25, 2012

LONDON — Few seem to be enjoying the management meltdown at the venerable BBC more than Rupert Murdoch, the News Corp. chief whose rival British newspapers have been caught up in their own lengthy, embarrassing and expensive phone-hacking scandal.

But the troubles for both media organizations highlight that the news industry in Britain is at rock-bottom in public esteem, and could face increased restrictions from the government of Prime Minister David Cameron, which appears convinced it has been unable to police itself.

The British Broadcasting Corp. has moved into full-bore damage control since it retracted mistaken allegations by its marquee news program that a politician sexually abused children. That serious mistake followed the BBC’s earlier failure to report on widespread child sex abuse allegations against one of its biggest stars, the late Jimmy Savile.

“BBC mess gives Cameron golden opportunity (to) properly reorganize great public broadcaster,” Murdoch tweeted gleefully Sunday.

The scandal follows several years of turmoil over the phone-hacking scandal, which exploded with the discovery that employees of Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid hacked into a kidnapped girl’s mobile phone. The scandal widened when scores of celebrities, sports stars and politicians said they, too, had been hacked. The tabloid folded, Murdoch’s media paid out millions in compensation and still faces scores of lawsuits. Several news executives have been arrested.

Murdoch’s grudge against the BBC was vented in detail in a 2009 speech by his son James, a TV executive who railed against the BBC’s funding, which comes from a television license fee paid by every TV household in Britain.

Because of its funding, “the BBC feels empowered” and “the scope of its activities and ambitions is chilling,” said James Murdoch.

BBC chief George Entwistle resigned this weekend, and on Monday the head of news, Helen Boaden, and deputy Stephen Mitchell were temporarily removed from their positions, though the broadcaster said neither were implicated in the errors involving its child sex abuse reports.

The broadcaster also came under fire Monday for the terms of Entwistle’s removal after only 54 days on the job. He is drawing a full year’s salary of 450,000 pounds ($715,000).

“Clearly, it is hard to justify a sizeable payoff of that sort,” Cameron’s spokesman Steve Field told reporters.             


 


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