back to article BBC post-Savile culture change means staff can 'speak truth to power'

In the post-Savile BBC era staff won't be punished for "speaking truth to power" – one of the main issues behind the canned £126m Digital Media Initiative, director general of the BBC Tony Hall told MPs. Appearing in front of a Parliamentary select committee on the BBC’s critical projects, Hall said: "One of the things that …

  1. TRT Silver badge

    PHB

    "However, it found the £75m “agile” MyBBC IT project has evaded scrutiny because managers could make up the benefits as they went along."

    Good to see the BBC finally adopting some of the working practices from the commercial sector.

  2. Graham Marsden
    Meh

    staff won't be punished for "speaking truth to power"

    Yeah, right. They won't be punished, but if you say things that are inconvenient for those at the top, what's the betting that your life suddenly becomes bloody miserable, you get put on crap projects or shuffled sideways into departments that are dysfunctional or given jobs that are doomed to fail until eventually you have to quit for the sake of your own dignity or sanity?

    Shooting the messenger never goes out of fashion...

    1. John H Woods

      Re: staff won't be punished for "speaking truth to power"

      Yes, again the onus is on the wrong people. Ensure the managers canvass, listen to and think about opinions from the sharp end, rather than exhorting those same people to risk it all to take a possibly unwelcome viewpoint to management.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: staff won't be punished for "speaking truth to power"

        As a manager (not at the BBC, I might add, but still in a creative industry) I made sure I could and did do some of the job of every single one of my technicians on at least three days every year, at both easy and difficult times. Usually shadowing them, but also on my own so they could take extraordinary leave. It's a real eye opener and something I'd recommend to anyone who has to listen to feedback from the staff who actually do the work.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: staff won't be punished for "speaking truth to power"

          By the way, when MY line manager found out that I was doing this, they immediately ordered me to stop and asked why were they paying me my manager's salary when I was doing the work of someone on half the amount on those days.

          1. Daggerchild Silver badge

            Re: staff won't be punished for "speaking truth to power"

            That makes me profoundly sad. So, detachment and ultimately corporate leprosy is built into the system. "Neurons, you're meant to be in the brain! Get back here!"

            How come the science of system management advances in operating systems, but goes continues to go absolutely nowhere in business.

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: staff won't be punished for "speaking truth to power"

              To be fair, I did have 14 technicians under me, so I would spend ~42 days a year as they put it "not operating in a managerial capacity". I argued that I considered those days as vital to being an effective manager, and pointed out the fact that they only noticed I was doing it when one of them saw me because they were walking to their ivory tower using the workshop corridor; the corridor between the executive car park and the executive management suite was closed for redecoration for two weeks. Which showed just how often they came down to the actual areas where the actual things that supported their eye watering salaries were actually being done.

              Needless to say there was an actual letter of redundancy for my post less than six months later when they were forced to restructure by agreement with the creditors or face the receivers. I know one thing... it wasn't me who spent £1.4 million redecorating the executive suite with mahogany panels and gilt edged embossed coats of arms whilst the TV studio had to be closed because someone refused to sign off a £5,000 order to have the drop curtains re-fireproofed before the external safety auditor picked up on it. I wasn't going to fake a safety document just to save £5k.

              1. Lotaresco
                Pint

                Re: staff won't be punished for "speaking truth to power"

                Your tale reminds me of my time as a manager in a technology company. It was a huge, privately owned business. The owner sent cases of wine from his own vineyards to each of the managers as an annual bonus. I handed mine on to the people I managed. After all they did all the work, they should get the perks, right? One of my team chatted to someone in the canteen and mentioned that I always gave away my bonus. I was called to a meeting of all the tech managers where my colleagues took turns at screaming at me that because I gave away wine, they would have to do the same and they didn't want to because they saw it as their bonus. Greed is good.

                In that company, a little like your tale, the managers all made sure that they had top of the range 7-series BMWs, expensive sports cars and lots of training courses and motivational speakers at expensive locations around the world. Meanwhile production had halted because of an unpaid bill and a key supplier fed up at the long delays experienced in receiving payments.

        2. energystar
          Angel

          Re: staff won't be punished for "speaking truth to power"

          You are of very high value to your Company.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: staff won't be punished for "speaking truth to power"

      "until eventually you have to quit for the sake of your own dignity or sanity?"

      This is known as "constructive dismissal" and in other countries has led to _extremely_ large payouts along with withering judgements against the organisations.

      Doesn't seem to happen here very much, even when it's blatant. The outfits pay derisory amounts to make it go away and judges find that refusing such offers means you're gold digging.

    3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: staff won't be punished for "speaking truth to power"

      It's not that the staff were punished for speaking truth to power. It's just that power didn't listen to what was spoken.

      I know; I was there - and very briefly working on DMI.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: staff won't be punished for "speaking truth to power"

      One is reminded of the fate of intellectuals in Mao's cultural revolution.

      Encouraged to constructively criticise the regime, all those who did self identified themselves as enemies of the revolution and end up in gulags, or the Chinese equivalent thereof.

      Cunning, those Chinese.

  3. TwoWolves

    I don't believe a word of it

    Watching the hysterical pro EU coverage of the referendum on BBC TV I'm of the conclusion that you can't believe a word that the BBC tell you.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I don't believe a word of it

      Damn this reality and it's liberal bias!

    2. Lars Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: I don't believe a word of it

      When the pro Brexit group complain about pro EU coverage and the pro EU group complain about the pro Brexit coverage then something is as it should be. If only on group complain something is wrong. I wonder what group you belong to. In the USA one channel would be only pro Brexit and some other channel would be only pro EU. I doubt you want the BBC to become either.

      1. John G Imrie

        Re: I don't believe a word of it

        I want the BBC to be able to piss of everyone, including me. Now could someone please stop them commissioning more soaps and reality TV. bloody BBC mumble mumble ...

      2. a pressbutton

        Re: I don't believe a word of it

        When the pro Brexit group complain about pro EU coverage and the pro EU group complain about the pro Brexit coverage then something is as it should be.

        Well, maybe

        However it is undoubtedly true that the BBC is biased

        To the centre.

  4. Yugguy

    Cult of celebrity

    Sweet - they're going to abolish the cult of celebrity, of unearned respect?

    I'll believe that when I see it.

  5. wolfetone Silver badge

    Ah, so it was the threat of punishment for speaking out against a man who systematically abused children for decades that stopped them speaking out.

    All makes sense now. The needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many to some people doesn't it?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So... Jim fixed it for them?

    "everyone knew it was going wrong but didn’t say anything. Post Savile people "

  7. SkippyBing

    So the two journalists who did the initial Newsnight piece not working for the BBC any more is entirely coincidental...

  8. Natalie Gritpants Silver badge

    Not sure I want MyBBC

    Sure you can't categorize the internet like Alta-Vista used to and so we have Google et al inveigling themselves into your life to give you the kitten videos you want.

    But the BBC's material is not so vast that it can't be categorized. If I want celebrity bell ringing competitions I'll know where to look.

    Also if they just open the website to the robots Google will probably do a better job of finding relevant stuff for free.

    There, saved you £75m. I'll have my pound back please.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When you're Jimmy Saville...

    Got the Toy dolls bouncing round in my head now. If only they'd known...or maybe they did. Olga's always been a f-f-f-f-funny one.

  10. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: State Broadcasters

      The BBC is an independent body. For all its faults it is NOT a state broadcaster.

      1. Adam 52 Silver badge

        Re: State Broadcasters

        Yes, but from Reith onwards it has always been prepared to sacrifice editorial independence to maintain its charter and licence fee.

      2. William 3 Bronze badge

        Re: State Broadcasters

        Hiding behind the fallacy that it's "independent" in no way detracts from it being a state broadcaster when the BBC is able to use the power of the state to compel you to purchase it's services with the threats of it being able to take away your freedom and liberty if you do not comply.

        You don't go to prison for unpaid bank loans.

        You go to prison for unpaid taxes.

        You go to prison for unpaid TV licenses.

        Claiming it's not state owned whilst it's able to use the full power of the state to obtain it's funding, come on now. Dress it up all you like, it damn well is.

        1. WereWoof

          Re: State Broadcasters

          Actually you can get sent to prison for unpaid taxes, just ask the many who wer sent to prison for being unable to pay the poll tax . . (Note UNABLE not unwilling).

      3. This post has been deleted by a moderator

        1. albaleo

          Re: State Broadcasters

          "It's funded by an enforced television tax.. It's riddled with government/ex-goverment establishment.. the zombies that work there are too far up their own arses to see that they are, in fact, glorified civil servants.. and the zombies like y'all, who worship at it's rotten feet, are too dumb to see what is fucking them in the face."

          Very good. We don't normally conduct auditions online, but if you'd like to pop round to the studio for a chat, I'm sure we can find a role for you in one of our upcoming dramas.

          1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

            1. Yugguy

              Re: State Broadcasters

              Could you say "fuck" a bit more please. I think you missed a fuck in one of the phrases.

    2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  11. Bloodbeastterror

    I love the BBC - along with the NHS it's something that the UK can be proud of as crown jewels in what's left of our dog-eat-dog money-grubbing "civilisation".

    However, around 1984 I lived in Shepherds Bush above a BBC designer who told me that it was standing orders in the BBC that Savile was never to be left alone with children. How vile a management structure does it have to be to have *that* as the "solution" to a child-endangerment problem...?

    I applaud Hall's intent to have a more open environment but, as already noted by several people above, hot air is easy - it's the actions that count.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Amen!!

      I love the BBC - along with the NHS it's something that the UK can be proud of as crown jewels in what's left of our dog-eat-dog money-grubbing "civilisation".

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. Ru'

    I wonder how many of the staff speak out against still requiring flash...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Speaking out

    When I was younger and worked for the BBC - I never felt I could not speak out, usually about some daft technical choice that had been made. We all moaned as much as we liked and no-one got itno any trouble. I was never aware of the Savile stuff, the only thing I knew about him was he was one of the few people allowed to smoke in the studios - but only during recordings.

    I now work for an outsourced outfit providing service to the BBC and others and I no longer speak out about daft stupid things, as no one ever seems to listen or care and rarely does it achieve anything sadly.

  14. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "If you look at all retail, media and consumer companies they are all seeking to do what MyBBC is trying to do... to bring a more direct personalised relationship with the customer."

    ...whether the customer wants it or not.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Speaking Out

    ISTR there were many people who for a very long time were saying that DMI was fundamentally flawed. The problem was that those in control refused to listen. Its all very well saying that people can speak out without fear, but there needs to be a vialbe process by which they can voice their concerns.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Speaking Out

      "The problem was that those in control refused to listen"

      The problem is that those in control solved the "problem" by sacking those who spoke out.

      This has not changed. The same as when outfits say "lessons have been learned" and yet noone senior is shown the door.

      1. SkippyBing

        Re: Speaking Out

        "lessons have been learned"

        We've got round that, we have Lessons Identified...

      2. Lotaresco
        Unhappy

        Re: Speaking Out

        Always beware of any senior exec who says:

        "My door is always open."

        "We encourage staff to improve business processes."

        and

        "Staff can speak truth to power."

        Because what they mean is "My mind is made up, I don't know who you are and I don't care either. Go away while I call HR and see if I can have you dragged from the premises behind a team of galloping wild horses."

  16. energystar
    Childcatcher

    "...Post Savile people won’t be penalised for that...."

    Just because they say so.

    Come on. Without EXTERNAL whistle-blowing mechanisms and SOLID union shields that's pure PR.

    1. energystar
      Devil

      Oops! Didn't got that... BBC was just jocking with the press while deciding what to say to public.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022