KEITH NEWBERY: BBC is hampered by management layers

IMAGINE a one-legged man hopping across a tightrope strung across the Niagara Falls in a force eight gale, and you have some idea of the difficulty the BBC faces in keeping a balance in all things.

The corporation’s attempts at maintaining a political, social and legal equilibrium is further hampered by endemically left-leaning newsrooms, and a laughably multi-layered management structure.

In every newspaper I’ve ever worked on, the editor’s word has been final. He or she might consult occasionally, but as they had to bear the ultimate responsibility, it was only right they made the ultimate decision.

But the Newsnight debacle over its Jimmy Savile coverage has cast an unflattering spotlight on the list of editorial decision-makers – and consequent capacity for equivocation – at the BBC.

It is typical of an organisation where money is no object and profitability does not have to be taken into consideration.

Above the editor of Newsnight is a head of newsroom, a deputy director of BBC News, a director of BBC News and then the director-general himself, who also carries the title of editor in chief.

The final decision, therefore, never truly rests with the person most qualified to make it.

He or she can always be over-ruled, and though the BBC is at pains to deny any such top-level interference in the decision to drop the Savile expose, the potential for a toxic compromise is always there.

Their attempt to recover some of its shredded integrity with the Panorama special on Savile was only partially successful.

The fact none of the senior executives agreed to appear on the programme to give their side of the story merely deepened the suspicion of corporate ineptitude and self-preservation.

But there was no such escape for the new DG, George Entwistle, when he appeared before the Commons Media, Sport and Culture Committee.

Looking and sounding like Tim Rice’s little brother, and nodding throughout like a toy dog in the back of an old Ford Cortina, he was exposed as well-meaning but totally ill-prepared. He was mocked for his inability to provide definitive answers, as he tried to make vacillation and lack of detailed information sound like a positive quality in a manager. I suspect the loathsome Savile may have claimed one more victim.

Speaker sinks to new lows with plates

It would appear we have a dyslexic couple now occupying the Speaker’s apartments at Westminster.

The increasingly preposterous John Bercow and his appalling wife, Sally, have decided to acquire personalised number-plates – or vague variations on the theme. This peculiar affectation has always been an excruciating exercise in personal vanity, but these two have taken it to new levels.

He has invested in B13 RCO, in the misguided belief it is a recognisable version of his name, and she has bought S88 LYY for the same reason.

Here’s an idea which would save them money and ensure they are immediately identifiable to all passing motorists.

They should settle for one car and buy a plate which reads 2 PRAT5.