Eddie Mair on the biggest BBC scandal since the last one

"How would you appear to the world if the content of your work email inbox were released for everyone to read?"

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If I had a penny for every time someone has asked for my thoughts about the publication of those Pollard Inquiry transcripts, I’d have a fortune – enough to pay for five minutes of the Pollard Inquiry. But I’ve batted away every polite question with my usual mix of either a beguiling smile, an enigmatic comment or a punch to the thorax. I was anxious to share my views exclusively with you. You should be the first to read my trenchant opinions about the biggest BBC scandal since the last one.

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Strictly speaking you’re not the first to read these words. Before they reach your dazzling eyes, I always have to share my words with someone at the BBC who checks I’m not causing the organisation (further) embarrassment. Then there’s the Radio Times editor who ponders proofs of this page while lounging in his leather arm-chair – Pimm’s in each hand, sucking on a fat Cuban. And finally there are the lawyers who make sure I’m not libelling anyone who would have enough money to sue.

But after them, you are the first and I intend to let loose. You deserve nothing better than the unvarnished truth. Those transcripts were intended to begin the healing process at the BBC – help bring people together and move on from a traumatic period. I couldn’t agree more and am anxious to lift my eyes to the horizon, and away from the infighting portrayed in some of the pages.

It’s worth considering though – who the **** does **** ***** think he is? I read his testimony and thought – wow. I used to respect you and now I see you’re a complete *****. And a ****** one at that. Unbelievable. Here’s what I would like to see happen to ****** *******. I would take a sharp ***** and a blunt ***** and proceed to ****** his ***** until it wouldn’t work even with immediate medical attention.

Golly gosh that feels better. Perhaps the whole unpleasantness caused you to reflect on how you would appear to the world if the content of your work email inbox were released for everyone to read. Mine would consist of appeals for cash, rants at the world and a stream of bad language. No wait, that’s my sent folder.

One final thought. A comment by the man who chairs the BBC Trust, Lord Patten, brought back happy memories. He said there was an impression of “frantic faffing about” around George Entwistle. And suddenly I was back in the early days of Broadcasting House on Radio 4. It was the week before Christmas and nothing was happening in the world. We were desperate for something to put on the radio. In the Commons, some MP had said it was time for the Government to stop faffing about. I jokingly suggested in the office that we should do a discussion on when it was appropriate to faff about and when it was time to stop.

Perhaps it was the looming deadline. Perhaps we were all hungover. But in the end we were phoning up potential guests inviting them to appear on the radio debating the critical question gripping the nation: when should we stop faffing. It’s a source of pride and shame in equal measure that together we made 20 minutes of entirely acceptable radio, that started out as a joke. But I’m sure a historical re-examination of our emails would reveal a different story.


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Eddie Mair hosts PM from Monday – Friday at 5pm on Radio 4