The BBC’s Savile-Newsnight dégringolade, as horrible as it is, offers up an interesting case study to students of management. Is there a symptom of bureaucratic degradation that the corporation is not exhibiting?
We have: the proliferation of managers but a lack of management; the presence of people whose job title begins with the responsibility-lite ‘Deputy'; the tolerance of dubious behaviour and worse as it’s too much bother to do otherwise; the promotion of the incompetent into management non-jobs as the easiest way to extract them from the important roles; the studied avoidance of knowledge in case it turns out to compromise; the right thing being defined by procedure rather than morality; decisions being made by default; not to mention, the widespread wearing of chinos.
This strikes me as very much a post-Hutton BBC – one where everything must be done to avoid erroneous acts of commission, even at the risk of committing ones of omission. Yes, A Gilligan was recklessly wrong in the detail of his Today programme two-way on Iraqi WMDs. But I’d prefer a journalistic organisation that was willing to take risks to get things out into the open than one that wriggled to keep its bonce below the battlements. Especially when it’s an organisation that can put together something as superb as this week’s Panorama.
The wider Savile problem seems to me to be another good argument for the reform of our libel laws. What with the US’s First Amendment protections, I wonder whether an American version of Jimmy Savile is less likely?
You can support libel reform here.
Over on ITV, I watched a few minutes of last Sunday’s Downton Abbey. Most peculiar: actors going out of their way to make it obvious they were acting. It was as if everything was in scare quotes – the dialogue was really too implausible for even the cast to credit it. To adapt Harrison Ford’s comment on George Lucas’s scripts: “you can type this shit but you sure can’t say it”, or at least you can’t with an entirely straight face.
I imagine everyone must be in on the Downton Abbey joke now. In this sense, it’s jumped the shark – knowingness deprives it of unintended humour. This is in contrast to the imperishable Howards Way, which succeeded in maintaining its pretensions to quality drama whilst missing by a hilarious mile (if you want to confirm this you can – it’s all on YouTube, starting here.
It’s not just editors at the BBC who are in trouble. I feel bound to offer some sort of exculpation of my fellow editor’s admission of micturative guilt back in his Monday diary. If such did happen – and I doubt that it did – it occurred into the shrubbery of a small strip of park rather than against a neighbours hedge. I can be certain of this as there are no domestic hedges in Angel.
Of course, and as so often at The Dabbler, we were partaking in a great literary tradition. Indeed, two of my favourite poets, Thomas Hardy and RS Thomas, were skilled and enthusiastic al fresco piddlers.
Whilst I (innocently) go around my business in the streets of London I’m sometimes struck by a musky aroma, usually whilst passing through some dark, leafy corner. At first sniff I’ve been assuming it’s a waft of skunky dope smoke – but it’s actually the scent of dog fox, something I always associate with holes in hedges. It’s a bit disorientating.