As a child, peanuts and witches were natural bed-fellows at Hallowe’en: witches were scary, but not as scary as the prospect of knocking on a door and receiving nuts rather than sweets in reward.
We’re a little past All Hallows’ Eve, but those twin evils came to mind again last night with the announcement that the BBC’s recently appointed Director-General George Entwhistle has resigned.
The hysteria over the BBC’s part in the tale of former-icon-now-revealed-to-be-voracious-child-abusing-demon Jimmy Savile has reeked somewhat of press hypocrisy and political witch-hunt. However, Entwhistle’s recent “nobody told me” performance after a further Newsnight controversy smacks of straightforward bad management.
If a flagship product is already under the spotlight for a suspected shortfall in its core strength (in this case, the quality and independence of Newsnight’s journalism), and that product is about to showcase those qualities in a high profile way (with a “breaking news” story about a leading political figure abusing residents of a children’s home), then you watch and question and check until you are satisfied that the qualities will be soundly displayed and the product redeemed. Mediocre management would, at the very least, know what was happening even if poor judgement meant not asking those searching questions.
Entwhistle’s performance has given some credence to the witch-hunt.
At the beginning of the year, announcing the departure of its previous DG Mark Thompson – and amidst media hysteria over public-sector executive pay – the BBC proudly announced that whoever was recruited to the position would earn half of his/her predecessor. This was confirmed with Entwhistle’s appointment in July.
And so to peanuts, the paying of which results in the employment of lesser primates.
Of course, there may be no connection at all.