JH: This has been talked up as the greatest crisis in the history of the BBC, do you agree?
DD: No, I think that’s hyperbole. I think that’s unnecessary… Wherever I go people speak with pride and gratitude about what the BBC does. The work that is done by the BBC is unquestioned. What is has is a crisis of management of its own making.
JH: [But] the trust in which it is held has been damaged hasn’t it?
DD: I think only by this one absurd broadcast by Newsnight implying that Lord McAlpine was involved in the North Wales affair. I think we wait to hear what happened with the Jimmy Saville case because that’s more complicated – that’s a decision not to run with a story that maybe they felt they hadn’t got enough evidence for… I think it’s been blown up, I can’t understand why the DG resigned… The fact that he chose to resign, and let’s say he chose to resign and the huge payoff given suggests maybe he didn’t… and not to fight… shows that he wasn’t the right man. The fact that he didn’t fight back against you on Saturday shows he wasn’t the right man to lead the BBC… If you’re going to be DG you’ve got to fight for the organisation…The fact that we [BBC] do this, a non profit-making organisation paid by the public to serve them and I think that’s what’s being betrayed by the management. The problem with the BBC is that bureaucracies are self-perpetuating…managers keep adding to management and reducing the actual service that’s given. Bureaucrats when they are asked to cut back immediately increase the scale of the BBC and its costs immediately increase the number of managers. The people who suffer are the people who do the real work. In my opinion it is still over-managed and the management still speak gobble-di-gook. Any editor or head of a department spends their life filling in forms about things that aren’t really necessary… The trouble is that out of that you don’t get good DGs, you get people who have played the system one against the other…. They don’t have the stomach for what’s needed, for the kind of leadership that’s needed.
JH: Couldn’t you say the BBC is different because of the way it’s funded…?
DD: I believe that good plain speaking is what is needed, not gobble-di-gook…
JH: Do you think he [Chris Patten] should go?
DD: Certainly not. I think he should reflect on why he chose George to do the job [of DG] and I don’t think he [Patten] should rush in to choose a new DG in 2 or 3 weeks which seems to be the plan at the moment… Patten has a reputation as being a shrewd old bird and a shrewd old bird is what is needed. For him to go would be absurd, it’s like when the chairman and DG went over the Hutton Inquiry, you can’t lose everybody. It’s not going to be easy to get this done, but it’s got to be done.
JH: Should we get rid of the board of trustees completely and hand over the governance of the BBC to somebody like Ofcom?
DD: I don’t like the Ofcom idea and I didn’t like the abolition of the governors. I thought the governors were a perfectly good way of doing it and indeed the Trust is showing itself to be closer to governors now… John Simpson, my colleague, floated the idea of possibly separating editorial control from the management and I think that’s also suspect… the man at the top has to take responsibility for what’s broadcast. He has to make sure there are systems that alert him to trouble… systems that tell him ‘have you read the Guardian this morning’ and ‘do you see what’s going on on Twitter.’ You’ve got to have an organisation that’s led by a man who ultimately is in charge and who ultimately takes responsibility.
Click here to download Dimbleby, Entwistle and Patten’s transcript in a Microsoft Word File.