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The New York Times dips a toe in British sleaze

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"Wisdom is good with an inheritance: and by it there is profit to them that see the sun/
For Wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it/
Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?"

Stephen Mitchell , Head of News Programmes at the BBC since 2007 and Deputy Director, BBC News, since 2008, was educated at Loughborough Grammar School, a fee-paying school for boys including some boarders. The Stonyhurst motto? Vires Acquirit Eundo , which is Latin for: "We Gather Strength As We Go".

And Mark Thompson , the New York Times' new boss, was educated by Jesuits at the independent school Stonyhurst College, from where he then went up to Merton College, Oxford. The school's alumni include three Saints, seven archbishops, seven Victoria Cross winners, presidents and prime ministers, and a signatory of the American Declaration of Independence.

Only some 7% of children in the UK go to these private, fee-paying schools. But they fill up the great majority of top jobs at the BBC, just as they do Cabinet posts in the UK government. Not for nothing are the BBC and the UK political classes on such cozy, back-scratching terms.

Perhaps it is this institutional arrogance and assumption of superiority that explains how when two journalists recorded what must have been very difficult and painful interviews with victims of Savile's sexual assaults for a special Newsnight investigation, the program could be 'killed' without anyone in charge apparently feeling the need to explain why to the journalists,, let alone the victims so cruelly led to believe that their stories were about to be heard. The former Director General has been quite comfortable to explain that although he knew about the investigation and that it had been presented as one with potentially huge implications for the BBC, he was happy to limit the discussion of the issue with the Head of News to just ten seconds.

This was Helen Boaden, who told Thompson that there was nothing in Newsnight's investigation into Savile to concern him. "It was Helen who came back and told me they were doing something and decided not to do it," the former BBC boss said. After speaking with Boaden, Thompson explained that he had "no reason to doubt" what he was told and that in any event, "nobody said there was an allegation of sex abuse on BBC premises".

Had he realised that that occurred, he said he would have taken action. Somehow Thompson was not only completely oblivious to all the seamy goings-on of the BBC but even missed press coverage in January and February that referred to the axing of the Newsnight investigation. The result was that Thompson only became aware of the gravity of the allegations against Savile when it emerged that the BBC's rival, ITV had put together a documentary exposing sexual abuse allegations on the part of its DJ-cum-TV star.

As for Thompson's replacement, the current Director General George Entwistle, he claimed he only learnt of the Newsight story while entering an event in a London hotel. "It was a busy lunch - I didn't want to show undue interest", he told the UK government's Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport.

That committee roasted the hapless DG in the best manner of an Oxbridge debate. But don't expect there to be any substantial changes at the BBC, other than the likely demotion of the Newnight editor, Peter Rippon. (Rippon, unfortunately for him, went to the wrong schools, attending Gillotts School, a state run comprehensive.)

As Stephen Lendman reported here recently ( 2/13/2012), throughout its history, the BBC has always been very cozy with power Lendman calls it a tool of imperialism. "Reliability's not its mandate. Owned, operated and controlled by Britain, government officials appoint its management." Far from being a bastion of liberal values, it is pro-government, pro-imperial, pro-war, pro-Israel, and pro-corporate. For the the BBC, like the NYT, it is not so much a case of 'speaking truth to power' as greasing the wheels...

On February 11, the London Independent headlined, "BBC to issue global apology for documentaries that broke rules". admitting that programs (including documentaries) presented as impartial BBC accounts, were made by third-party entities in the pay of governments and firms.

This was done under Mark Thompson's watch. As too was a significant change in the funding of its overseas radio programs, the World Service. For years, however poor the news offered to British citizens by the BBC, the World service has had something of an independent voice. This was helped by it being separately funded - via the British Foreign Office. Thompson ended this arrangement, sold off the World Services historic headquarters (Bush House) and brought in some additional funding from... the US State Department.

Perhaps he is the right man for the New York Times after all.
For a typical recent report summing up both the awfulness of Savile and the complacency of the BBC, see for example

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Martin Cohen is a well-established author specializing in popular books in philosophy, social science and politics. His most recent projects include the UK edition of Philosophy for Dummies (Wiley June 2010); How to Live: Wise and not-so-wise (more...)

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