The BBC is celebrating 90 years of public service this week but the future of the corporation has never been under more scrutiny. Allegations of cover-ups and Newsnight‘s blundering attempt to move along the Jimmy Savile scandal have cast the organisation in a very poor light, not helped by their director general’s total lack of PR skills. George Entwhistle couldn’t continue in his role and fell on his sword but his departure, after less than two months in charge, will have been eased by a bumper severance package that has the British public who, after all are paying for it, in uproar. So who in their right mind would be prepared to put his, or her, head on the block and try and build the BBC’s reputation?
Surprisingly, there might be several candidates. As acting DG, Tim Davie is in pole position and is 2/1 to take over the role on a permanent basis (Paddy Power and William Hill). But his performance when interviewed on Sky News has hardly put a marker down to his rivals. As nervous as a kitten when shown a sack and a couple of house bricks, the marketing expert wanted to look anywhere but in the camera which is hardly a good advert for someone who wants to head-up a media giant. Ed Richards is preferred in the betting (13/8 with Paddy Power and Ladbrokes) with the former Ofcom chief accustomed to political fire-fighting (he was once Tony Blair‘s policy advisor). But there is a feeling that the BBC chiefs may finally give a woman the chance to put their house in order after bottling the decision before.
Caroline Thomson, formerly chief operating officer at the corporation, was widely touted to get the post in the summer but was pipped at the post by Entwhistle. She didn’t hang around for commiserations but still has ambitions for the top job and it wouldn’t take much to entice her back. Thomson has the advantage of knowing the job requirements and the top people she’ll be expected to work with. She doesn’t get flustered when pressured either, a big plus in the current climate, and hasn’t been tainted by recent scandals. She looks a natural choice at Paddy Power and Ladbrokes’ 7/2.
Newsnight‘s future will be one of the first issues to be addressed by the new DG and it is only Evens with Paddy Power that the current affairs programme survives until the end of the year. Jeremy Paxman, the name most associated with Newsnight but free of any controversy, is 100/1 to be made director general with most firms.