Now, none of this is to say it hasn’t been a difficult year for television. It has. Of course, a politician talking to a journalist about trust is a bit like a City banker talking to a Premier League footballer about pay restraint. But, even if I’m in no position to teach broadcasters any lessons, the same thing applies to us both. In both politics and television, you devalue the only currency you have if you forfeit the trust of the public. I’m glad to see that there is a widespread recognition that something has seriously gone wrong and that it needs to be put right. Lessons need to be learned. But there is a right lesson and a wrong lesson to draw.
The right lesson is that broadcasters and producers need to respect their audience. You need to put your house in order, and if you don’t there will be a clamour for OFCOM and the BBC Trust to take further action. The wrong lesson is that this shows the public are now liable to give up on public service broadcasting. Actually, the episode shows the opposite: an idea is dying when it no longer warrants any comment, not when it provokes outrage. The public outcry showed that people still rely on broadcasting for accurate and truthful information.
Contrast that with people’s expectations of the internet, where people understand that not everything they see will meet the same high standards as they expect from TV and radio. It is in the very nature of that medium that people can say anything legal they want, and then be judged in the court of public opinion. At the end of a bad year, I don’t think the bell is tolling for broadcasting. I do think people feel let down. But you only get to feel let down if you hold something in high regard in the first place.
What can he mean?