THERE SEEMS little point in expecting rational decisions from the British Broadcasting Corp. at this low moment in its fortunes.
Take the pay-off awarded to George Entwistle, the outgoing director-general, who has received a full year's salary when, contractually, he should have received half as much. It suggests that Lord Patten of Barnes and the BBC Trust have yet to grasp the true significance of the Newsnight debacle. It is about loss of trust.
As Tim Davie, Entwistle's temporary replacement, observed, if the BBC forfeits trust, it forfeits everything – and it is certainly undermined by crass decisions such as Entwistle's lavish severance package. The events of the past few weeks have left millions of license-fee payers feeling baffled and let down: many more such stumbles will lead to public anger.
Above all else, the BBC's corporate culture is driven by its determination to retain the funding mechanism of a compulsory TV license that currently guarantees an annual income of $3.6 billion. With such resources, the corporation has no excuse not to proclaim itself the greatest broadcasting organization in the world.
This goes to the heart of how the BBC has lost its way. In pursuit of the renewal of its charter and license fee, the corporation has become obsessed with extending its reach, but in trying to appeal to every demographic it risks diluting the quality of its output and the values that it is there to represent. It has also become over-managed, inflexible and sclerotic. In many ways, the current crisis was an accident waiting to happen.
The BBC celebrates its 90th birthday. It is a great national institution, but if it is to mark its centenary in good health it needs fundamentally to reconsider its role and to do less, but do it better. Let the debate start now.
The Telegraph, London