BBC's David Dimbleby makes questionable pitch for DG job
I'm the man for the job, says Question Time host – but many would like to see an outsider brought in
AS THE bloodletting began at the BBC this morning, David Dimbleby used an interview on the Today programme to put in his job application for the vacancy of Director General to replace the hapless George Entwistle.
The BBC announced that its news director Helen Boaden and her deputy Steve Mitchell have agreed to "step aside" over the BBC crisis. Heads are expected to roll later today for the disastrous Newsnight programme libeling former Tory party treasurer Alistair McAlpine.
David Cameron was resisting demands from Tory MPs for former Tory party chairman Lord Patten, the chairman of the BBC trust, to be sacked over the decision to allow Entwistle to leave with his full year's salary (instead of the half year to which he was entitled) as part of a golden goodbye of £1.3m. Harriet Harman, the Labour deputy leader, said it was a "reward for failure".
As the turmoil at the BBC continued, Dimbleby, the Question Time host and long-serving ‘big occasion' anchor, put himself forward as the man to restore trust to the BBC. He said he had run before for the DG's job (and twice for the post of chairman currently held by Lord Patten) and made it clear he sees himself as the man who can turn the corporation around in its hour of need. "I've worked on Panorama, on events, and all parts of the BBC," he said.
John Humphrys, whose brutal interview with Entwistle on Saturday morning proved to be the final straw, introduced Dimbleby as a man "whose name is synonymous with best times at the BBC". Dimbleby certainly enhanced his chances with Patten - who has to appoint the new DG - by saying that Patten must not resign over his handling of the crisis.
Asked by Humphrys whether Patten should go, Dimbleby said: "Certainly not. He should reflect why he chose George Entwistle to do the job… he has a reputation of being a shrewd old bird. For him to go now would be absurd. It's like when the chairman and Director-General went over the Hutton inquiry. You cannot lose everybody."
Dimbleby also echoed Patten's weekend calls for a root-and-branch reform of the bureaucrats at the BBC by cutting out useless layers of management. Accusing Entwistle of being too weak to fight his own corner, Dimbleby said: "You don't get good Directors-General [by appointing from within the BBC bureaucracy]. You have people who played the system and rose through the ranks. They just don't have the stomach for what is needed."
He could also win the support of the BBC foot-soldiers who have seen their army become leaderless. "If you are going to be Director General, you have got to fight for it and fight for the many people who are …baffled and confused by the management above them."
Dimbleby also shot down a proposal raised by John Simpson, the BBC's world editor, to split the job. "That is suspect – the man at the top has to take overall responsibility for what happens."
The big factor against appointing Dimbleby is that many people want to see an outsider brought in to shake-up the BBC. Dimbleby is a BBC man through and through.
Those in the firing line today include Adrian van Klaveren, acting head of news who cleared the programme, Peter Rippon – suspended from his role because of the Savile affair – and the acting editor, Liz Gibbons. The reporter, Angus Stickler, is a former BBC journalist. He is employed by the not-for-profit Bureau of Investigative Journalism.