Not amused

Saturday, July 14, 2007 by

It’s depressing to see the BBC getting in such a twitchy, nervous state over this business with the Queen.

Peter Fincham’s been doing a reasonable job “touring”, as they always say, the studios in order to appear suitably contrite. But he’s no Michael Grade, who – had this happened on his watch – would’ve breezed onto Open Air and neutered the controversy with a bit of straight-talking, a few gags and a sense of what’s-all-the-fuss-about.

Moreover, if it had happened when Greg Dyke was running the Beeb, he’d have gone on telly himself, no doubt in shirt sleeves, and nonchalently shrugged off the hysteria via a self-effacing apology – “So, we cocked up, and I apologise, but it’s not the end of the world” – and told everyone to calm down.

Instead Mark Thompson has been cowering behind closed doors, no doubt poring over some spreadsheets to try and determine a cost-plus analysis of the downside of the whole affair, giving the impression of being shifty, not in charge and timid. Not one but two apologies were “issued” to the press. And now a hotline has been set up for BBC staff to shop their colleagues if they think they’re not up to the job.

It’s all become way more of a mess than is necessary, something that Thompson appears happy to encourage by hiding away as much as possible, behaving as if it was still the 1950s and acting as if his organisation might have committed treason.

When he took over in the post-Hutton chaos of early 2004, he was seen as a safe pair of hands. But increasingly Thompson is proving to be one of the most ineffectual and vacant DGs for a very long time. So much so that, when he finally steps down, rather than being carried on people’s shoulders (Dyke) or booed to the rafters (Birt), chances are most people won’t even notice.


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