Thursday, January 23, 2014


At least one BBC editor has lost the job he loved as a result of the Dinah Rose enquiry. The Independent reports that Rod McKenzie, who used to run Newsbeat on Radio 1 and 1Xtra, has taken a month off, and will move to another, so far unnamed, post.

The Rose investigation was set up in George Entwistle's brief DG-ship, and invited employees to raise concerns about workplace bullying and sexual harassment, post-Savile. 550 people were interviewed, and 375 letters, emails and voice mails came in, including substantial dossiers from the unions BECTU and the NUJ. "Respect at Work" was published in May last year, but much earlier on it was clear that many complaints clustered around certain managers - some were advised to take a discreet exit from the BBC, and did. According to the Indie, there were more than 30 complaints about Rod's management style, spread over 20 years - a "close source" tells the Indie, “He strongly rejects these claims and maintains that his behaviour is entirely in keeping with a pressurised news environment.”

Rod had probably been there too long. He was an energetic Newsbeat reporter when I left in 1987 - and he became editor in 2001. Expansion was the name of the game for this news service, which was doing what the rest of the BBC found hard - connecting with a young audience. Extra budget and staff came in for new projects, and all was pink on the map, until the arrival of "helpful" John Myers. He was brought in by Tim Davie to prowl 1, 1Xtra, Radio 2 and 6Music looking for "synergies". His commercial radio "speak-as-I-find" approach thought Newsbeat was too big. His sagacious analysis failed to spot that the team was one of the few places in news taking on new, raw staff from diverse backgrounds and turning them into journalists that other, more risk-averse, departments would eventually nick with glee. Nor did the management above Rod.

As the Indie says "The BBC’s disciplinary process did not uphold claims against Mr McKenzie that he brought prejudices to the process of deciding which members of staff lost their positions as part of the BBC’s Delivering Quality First efficiency savings process".  But downsizing is never stress-free, especially, if you're being downsized early on in the career of your dreams.

One footnote: being fair to all sides might be a good reason for a disciplinary hearing to take the best part of a year, but it's not nice and not good practice - an extended process can distort the end result, and create more problems than were there in the first place.

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