In my role as TNR’s Training Manager, I’ve seen that job seniority doesn’t necessarily mean you are a) an eloquent public speaker or b) the best person for the job. But when it comes to being the Director General of the BBC, you’d expect appearing on-air – or at least knowing what’s expected of you – to come naturally.
But George Entwistle, a career journalist at the corporation, sealed his own fate when he was interviewed by his journalists about a libellous Newsnight paedophile exposé. The next day, his mere 54 days in office were over.
During a grilling from John Humphries on Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Entwistle – whose role meant he was also the BBC’s editor-in-chief – confessed to not knowing about the programme until the day after it was aired. The interview soon became cringe-worthy listening, with the Director General unable to answer any questions convincingly.
After that, he appeared on BBC Breakfast, stumbling and mumbling his way through the interview in an equally humiliating way.
Following the Newsnight scandal just a few weeks earlier – which revealed an exposé on Jimmy Savile was binned – Entwistle was supposed to be at the helm, guiding the BBC back into the public’s confidence. Instead he steered himself head on into the storm.
Surely George Entwistle must have known what kind of questions were going to be asked of him during those interviews? There is no doubt he could have prepared for them and answered with greater clarity and conviction. He did not portray himself as a man in control who had a grip on his organisation. If he had stayed calm at a time of crisis, he may not have entered the record books as the shortest serving Director General in the Corporation’s history.
Post by Tessa Parry-Wingfield, Training Manager @ TNR Communications