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Over the past month everyone in the media seems to have had an opinion on the so called “crisis” at the BBC. The government even grilled the main man in question George Entwistle on his handling of the Jimmy Savile allegations, along with generally having a pop at the BBC for their culture over the past fifty years. You may agree with John Simpson that the BBC are going through their “worst crisis” in fifty years, or you may share the view of many that journalists and politicians are exaggerating the role of the BBC in order to play down their involvement, or lack of action, in the Jimmy Savile affair. Either way, I don’t believe that answering this question is the most pressing issue in the British media at the moment. The question that does need considering is will the British pubic ever trust the media again?
As the nation has acknowledged, the allegations facing Jimmy Savile along with the horrendous reports that are surfacing about him are terrible and must be dealt with by the police as thoroughly as possible. But as this investigation continues, the British media has a lot of thinking to do about its current role in society. The BBC’s late cancellation of the Newsnight documentary last year has once again re-surfaced the issue of the transparency of actions within the media. The public negativity towards the media that the phone hacking incidents caused has now been evoked again from one of our most trusted institutions. As outraged with News Corporation the public may have been, the phone hacking for many just seemed like another addition to the list of News Corps negatives. Therefore as shocking as these revelations were, “respectable” journalists could still look down and laugh at the tabloids. However what the BBC have succeeded in doing by highlighting the lack of transparency within their organisation and then topping that off by giving the leader of the pack a £450,000 fair well gift is well and truly lose our trust and disconnect the whole media from the general public.
With the BBC being one of Britain’s leading broadcasters, this loss of trust could potentially have a substantial negative effect. As well as reporting news and keeping the public fully informed on current affairs, the role of journalist should be to challenge people with power and be critics of negative changes within the country. By doing so governments can be held accountable and scandals such as the Jimmy Savile investigation can be unearthed and then dealt with. Therefore if journalists and the media as a whole no longer have trust and public support how can they possibly criticise people in power and ensure issues that need to be raised are being raised? Within the current climate of resent towards the government, for MPs to be criticising journalists in parliament rather than the other way round just highlights how bad the state of affairs has become. According to a YouGov survey, for the first time more people distrust the BBC than trust them. Highlighting how the BBC have successfully devalued their standing among the public and the standing of the media as a whole.
Although the BBC is a respectable broadcaster and forever will be. It is clear that they haven’t done themselves any favours in convincing the public that this is true. Even if the BBC haven’t done anything wrong, the perceived delay to reveal such important any information regarding the Jimmy Savile case provoked more questions than they could answer. Maybe their downfall is circumstantial and that the more allegations that are made the more the BBC are going to suffer for withholding the initial information. Either way it is in an issue they are going to have to deal with. Our country continuously prides itself on its free press. However if the pubic can’t trust the press how can they hold institutions like the police and the government to account? Our democracy would not be strong if it weren’t for an informative and critical free press. Therefore if the BBC and other media organisations alike are going to earn the right to report and criticise they are going to have to earn back our trust if they want us to listen.