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Outsiders can rescue “bloated” BBC management culture, says media expert

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Outsiders can rescue “bloated” BBC management culture, says media expert


Published by University of Leicester Press Office for University of Leicester in Education and also in Communities

University of Leicester Head of Department of Media and  Communication comments on ‘group think’ culture at BBC


The BBC would be improved by an influx of senior managers with more experience of running large organisations than of working in broadcasting, a  media expert has said.

Professor Barrie Gunter, head of the Department of Media and Communication at the University of Leicester, has been closely following events around the inquiries into the behaviour of Jimmy Savile and the Newsnight child abuse allegations.

He says one of the BBC’s problems has been its tendency to promote from within which reinforces a management culture that is either blind to risks or refuses to address them quickly enough. The BBC is characterised by a “bloated” and “multi-layered” management structure which devolves and confuses rather than focuses and clarifies sources of responsibility for specific editorial actions or staff behaviour.

“There’s this culture of taking decisions in a particularly convoluted way and of protecting the BBC’s interests internally, which leads to a kind of ‘group think’.

“They are not very tolerant of fresh ideas about how to run things which don’t conform to what they believe the BBC is about, and they have their own particular view of the BBC and how it should operate,” he said.

The time has come for the BBC to consider appointing a chief executive not just from the outside but also from another environment -- someone who knows a lot about how to run a large organisation, Professor Gunter added.

Separating the Director General’s role from editor-in-chief might be part of the solution, but the BBC did already have a head of news.

“Maybe you don’t need to create new posts but you do need to adjust job descriptions and responsibilities,” he said.

More widely there is a cultural problem within BBC management, which remains “bloated” and “multi-layered”, Professor Gunter added.

“What you have is a sense of devolved responsibility, even among people who are graded at senior levels and on six-figure salaries. There’s always somebody else who can be referred across to or up to, and decisions are ultimately taken by a multitude of people. If things go wrong you don’t know who to blame.”

There was also a tendency - particularly in news - for journalists to believe they should only be managed by other journalists, if they had to be managed at all. But journalists do not always make good managers.

“There’s nothing wrong with having people who are professional managers, who aren’t necessarily from particular professions: they don’t have to be broadcasters or journalists,” Professor Gunter said.


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