Time for BBC 'to get a grip'

Defiant: staff protested over Dyke’s departure

Journalists hope the “shattering” experience of the Hutton Inquiry can be followed by a period of stability within the BBC.

After its savaging by Lord Hutton and staff protests against the departure of director general Greg Dyke, a senior journalist at the BBC said it was “time to get a grip”.

“Nothing like this has ever happened at the BBC and people are still shattered,” the journalist said.

“But we need to get a grip. There was a great deal of anger and hurt, but I think what you will see now is a period of settling down and consolidation.”

Senior staff spoke of the “emotional convulsions” that gripped the BBC after Hutton’s withering attack on its governors and its “defective” editorial procedures.

Another referred to the emotional reactions of staff as its “Diana effect”.

Journalists in the BBC’s newsroom crowded around Dyke and gave him a standing ovation when he visited Television Centre after announcing his departure outside Broadcasting House. Director of news Richard Sambrook was also applauded by news staff.

“I have never seen anything quite like it. It’s impossible to describe the emotions that people went through,” said another source. “People were crying and there was a lot of anger and defiance too.”

The resignation of Andrew Gilligan came as no surprise. He is understood to be considering offers to join newspapers and write a column for The Spectator.

Staff expressed relief that Sambrook, who is greatly respected, did not step down after he was criticised by Hutton for failing to check Gilligan’s notes until nearly a month after his controversial report was broadcast on Radio 4’s Today.

But some fear that although he is hanging on in the post, he might decide to move on and take up another directorate position when one becomes vacant at the BBC.

“It’s been a year of hell for him,” said one source.

“He won’t be shafted and he won’t be forced to go – there’s no question of that. He’s hugely respected, but no matter how much support he has, the worry is that he will want to move onto something new.”

Current head of television news Roger Mosey is regarded as the most likely successor, but for now journalists hope Sambrook will remain in the post to help restore stability.

Journalists were dismissive, however, of the idea that the BBC would be cowed by Hutton’s conclusions and less likely as a result to pursue stories that are critical of the Government.

“Anybody who tries to persuade journalists not to take on difficult subjects would be in for trouble,” said a source. “Ironically this has probably done more to radicalise the BBC than anything else.”

The post of director of news is considered key to the BBC’s journalism in the future, but the chairman of governors and director general’s posts remain a cause for concern.

The ‘dream ticket’ for many journalists would be the appointment of former Governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, as chairman of the governors, with Channel 4 chief Mark Thompson returning to take up the director general’s post.

By Julie Tomlin

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