THE BBC: RESIGNED TO GOOD PR?

Peter Elms

Elton John, and Entwistle have much in common. Each have similar haircuts, each have at one point in their careers had an influence over what people listen to and each give the impression that sorry seems to be the hardest word.

Here is what Entwistle had to say on Saturday night:

“In the light of the fact that the director general is also the editor-in-chief and ultimately responsible for all content, and in the light of the unacceptable journalistic standards of the Newsnight film broadcast on Friday 2nd November, I have decided that the honourable thing to do is to step down from the post of Director-General.”

By all accounts, Mr Entwistle was a nice man. He is not deemed to be a part of the problem at the BBC. He recognises that he is ultimately responsible for everything and he felt he had to stand down. All very predictable.

But why is this resignation honourable? If your job is to take responsibility for the actions of others, and you do that, and you are paid to do that, at what point does resigning for doing just that become honourable? It just doesn’t make sense.

More importantly, how does Entwistle being considered honourable make any difference to the victim(s) of the BBC’s purported malpractice? In fact this honourable resignation only seeks to make people sorry for old aunty, who is far from the victim in any of this. It also feels a touch dishonourable to deem your own actions honourable. You get the picture (or vision in BBC parlance).

So what should have been said?

Maybe what most people say when they make a mistake:

“We are sorry”.

“We’re sorry our mistake caused so much harm, we can do better, we will do better.”

Most people forgive people that make mistakes, especially when they have just started doing something, and especially when everyone seems to think they are trying their hardest in a difficult situation.

The honourable resignation has a place – see Jerry Maguire. But sometimes it just feels outdated and out of touch. It’s what politicians do when they want to unseat their boss, or what Roman Generals do (and a bit more) when they lose battles to bearded woodsmen.

For the benefit of the reputation brand BBC, a heartfelt sorry might have done a bit more than a resignation.

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