10 November 2012 - 4:56am | posted by | 0 comments

How on earth can the BBC rebuild its reputation as Lord McAlpine has courage to identify himself as Tory at heart of child abuse allegations ?

Lord McAlpine: apologies all round Lord McAlpine: apologies all round

Did the BBC programme Newsnight charge on with the Welsh child abuse story in an attempt to rebuild its credibility after the damaging controversy over the scrapped Jimmy Savile investigation? The question is posed in the Daily Telegraph.

It took untold guts for Lord Alastair McAlpine to identify himself as the the individual whose name was being totally wrongly bandied about on the Twitterverse in connection with the abuse at a children's home in Wrexham featured in the programme .

And the BBC's mortification was complete when Steve Messham , who alleged he had been abused by Lord McAlpine, said after being shown a picture of the former Tory party treasurer, that he had been wrong . In a statement he offered his “sincere and humble apologies” to the peer.

He suggested journalists working for Newsnight had not shown him a photograph of Lord McAlpine to confirm his identity and said: “After seeing a picture in the past hour of the individual concerned, this [is] not the person I identified by a photograph presented to me by the police in the early 1990s, who told me the man in the photograph was Lord McAlpine.”

Several commentators, said the Telegraph, pointed out the bitter irony of the programme’s failure to identify a genuine paedophile in the Savile case before it targeted an innocent man.

Andrew Neil, the broadcaster, has said the very future of Newsnight was now in doubt.

Presenter Eddie Mair ended the programme in which Newsnight presented its own grovelling apology by saying: “Newsnight will be back on Monday, probably.”

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but why on earth did Newsnight not put the damning allegations to Lord McAlpine? So they didn't name him, but they knew, that in this world of instant unchecked slander, the Twitterverse would!

Lord McAlpine's lawyers said that the BBC took "the coward's way out."

A colleague suggested to me there was a dual problem , "We have the anarchy of Twitter - and the headless chickens at the BBC."

The Drum understands that at at least one BBC insider had doubts about Mr Messham's testimony and credibility as a witness.

And what about this statement, "The BBC is suspending all co-productions with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism which worked with Newsnight on the investigation."

Who are they then? We thought it was the BBC on the job.

The fact is that it is not just Newsnight that is is under threat . It is the whole BBC edifice. The BBC is the rock upon which much of Britain's worldwide reputation is based. And today it is showing serious cracks.

How can Director General Mark Thompson have been so out of the loop in the Jimmy Savile investigation that he did not step in when the programme was axed? HE was the editor-in-chief. HE was responsible.

In newspapers the editor always carries the can. But the BBC exists in a dream world entirely its own. No need to worry about advertising or sales at the corner shop. The public picks up the tab.

In the past year we have seen Rupert Murdoch going through News International with a scythe to restore his company's battered reputation after the hacking scandal.

Now it seem the BBC, too, is in need of a reputation fixer. Who is there with the fortitude or power to do it?

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