DAILY MAIL COMMENT: The BBC has failed to learn from past mistakes

DAILY MAIL COMMENT: The BBC has failed to learn from past mistakes

After every mis-step, controversy or scandal in public life, those responsible always pledge that ‘lessons will be learned’. This empty cliche is meant to demonstrate an acceptance that things should have been handled better and, crucially, that in the future they will be.

The trouble is, they almost never are. The same mistakes are made again and again as history repeats itself in a combination of tragedy and farce.

The BBC promised yesterday to learn lessons from the troubling saga of the as yet unnamed presenter alleged to have paid a young person large sums to exchange sleazy photographs over the internet.

But will it? The BBC’s track record hardly inspires confidence.

To be fair to the corporation and its executives, this is a messy and complex affair. They had an obligation to investigate the allegation, but also had to ensure that the complainant – the young person’s mother – had a genuine grievance and was indeed who she said she was.

(File Photo) The BBC promised yesterday to learn lessons from the troubling saga

They also had a duty of care to the presenter, which meant protecting his privacy and his reputation pending further inquiries. Complaints are made all too frequently against TV personalities by the deluded and the malicious. The BBC was right to check this one out before proceeding.

However, that checking process has to be diligent and it has to be followed through. The Jimmy Savile scandal showed what can happen when legitimate complaints are not fully investigated.

So why then, after the mother came into a BBC building to make her allegations in person on May 18, was little or nothing done until July 6 – after her story was published in The Sun newspaper?

In a timeline released yesterday, the BBC said an email was sent to the woman by its corporate investigations team, assuring her that her complaint was being taken seriously and asking for additional details.

More than two weeks later, the team called the mobile number given by the woman but received no reply. As a result, the matter seems to have been quietly left on file. It wasn’t even mentioned to the presenter himself.

Yesterday the story took a further twist when another young person, unconnected with the first, claimed the presenter pressured them to meet after making contact on a dating app, and then sent abusive and menacing messages when they refused.

The police are now investigating, placing the BBC’s own inquiry on pause. But they cannot hide their heads in the sand. While the legitimate Press and media have withheld the presenter’s name for reasons of fairness and privacy, it is all over the Wild West of social media.

The dam hasn’t quite burst, but water is beginning to seep through and the BBC is in serious danger of being overwhelmed – yet again.

Beware the dragon

Claims that a ‘Chinese spy’ infiltrated a private parliamentary briefing given by two Hong Kong dissidents are deeply disturbing. 

The Beijing-controlled Hong Kong police has offered a bounty for their arrests, placing them in genuine danger. 

So how did an agent manage to get so dangerously close to them in the Palace of Westminster? 

We cannot wait until one of these courageous pro-democracy campaigners is seriously harmed before we take the threat from the Chinese state seriously and show some vigilance.

Mortgage rates at their highest since the 2008 crash. Record wage growth pushing up the price of everyday goods and services. And base rates predicted to rise still further, adding to the financial pain for families and firms. 

Could there be more damning evidence of just how badly the Bank of England has failed in its mission to control inflation?

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