Members of the public were gripped in fascination on Monday when a statement issued by the BBC confirmed that Director General George Entwistle had resigned his post. This followed the broadcast of an edition of BBC2 programme Newsnight that lead to an increase in the amount of information circulating on the web mis-identifying Conservative peer Lord McAlpine as part of a network of paedophiles responsible for abusing children living in local authority care in North Wales during the 1970’s and 80’s.
They may also have been fascinated to learn that BBC news director Helen Boaden and her deputy Steve Mitchell had ‘stepped aside’ to be replaced with head of ‘newsgathering’ Fran Unsworth and the editor of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme Ceri Thomas.
Many media outlets are quite happy for the news agenda to be all about themselves and other people they know socially, and so we should prepare for the ‘BBC Scandal’ to be the main news event of the following few weeks, in much the same way as the Hutton enquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly and the alleged fabrication of evidence by civil servants designed to convince the public of the need to invade Iraq (surely an issue of significant public interest) descended into a bland discussion of which BBC journalist sent which e-mail to which news editor using what particular laptop.
Whilst this compelling story of BBC restructuring may be of interest to some, it is in danger of removing from the national conscience the real issue which brought it about in the first place.
A report by Wales-on-Line indicates that 36 people have now contacted Wales children commissioner Keith Towler to report abuse at the Brym Estyn childrens home when they were residents. As these reports relate to a single institution, this may be the tip of a very large iceberg, information about which seems strangely destined to remain off the front pages as long as there are more important issues to dominate public discourse, such as the size of Mr Entwistle’s settlement figure.
There is increasing evidence that historically some care homes for children, far from providing a stable and caring environment for the vulnerable children entrusted to them, operated as a place where abuse could take place, away from the prying eyes of the public and where clearly abusers felt comfortable knowing that they would not be exposed. Victims report being taken on trips away, to London, where they were abused at ‘parties’ being held for that very purpose by gangs of men who hitherto remain unidentified and who’s crimes go undetected.
An abnormally large number of children are reported missing in the United Kingdom every day. Many are safely and swiftly returned to their families, but a disturbing number are permanently missing. You would think that this would also be something that required urgent investigation and the re-direction of resources, but it would seem that yet again our collective attention will be skilfully diverted elsewhere.
All information is correct on the date of posting.