Before we plunge into the little local difficulty of Newsnight, let’s reflect that 90 years ago about 11,000 people were crowded round their crystal sets listening to the first output of the British Broadcasting Company.


Within a few years the BBC was resisting intense pressure to take the side of the government in the General Strike of 1926. Its correspondents risked life and limb to report the Second World War. After the conflict its radio and television services defined what public service broadcasting was all about when competition from commercial broadcasting arrived. It has been sustained by the licence fee, a method of funding under constant attack, but still supported by the British people.


Its natural history programmes, dramas and documentaries are of the highest quality and much of its investigative journalism has been of the same standard. There has rightly been a lot of criticism of the failure to investigate Jimmy Savile and the serious libel of Lord McAlpine, but it was not so long ago that the BBC exposed the abuse of elderly people in the Winterbourne View Care Home.


So let’s realise what is going on at the moment. The BBC’s commercial enemies are having a field day and some right wing Tories have raised the spectre of funding the BBC by public subscription. Let’s have a whip round for a programme showing us polar bear cubs in their den in the heart of an Arctic winter.


The important question at the moment isn’t “wither the BBC?”, but why does the Corporation, every few years, plunge itself into a major crisis over its journalism?


A lot of people have questioned the structure of the BBC that left the Director General exposed, first to the Commons Select Committee over Savile and then to John Humphrys over McAlpine. George Entwhistle was certainly let down by those who should have kept him informed but I think he just wasn’t up to the job. One of the requirements of being Director General is an ability to prepare for media interviews and give as good as you get.


Some weeks ago I expressed surprise that Entwhistle had conducted a public trial of the editor of Newsnight, Peter Rippon at the Commons Media Select Committee. He was asked ridiculous questions like, “how many paedophiles are there at the BBC”. Entwistle should have said he’d set up inquiries into that and the MP should stop show boating. Instead he looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights.


Same again after the second Newsnight programme, only this time it was Humphrys kebabing his own boss. The next DG needs to be a man or woman made of sterner stuff. Sadly it looks like a mostly male field now that Caroline Thomson, the BBC’s former chief operating officer has ruled herself out of a second run for the job. My choice would be Tony Hall, the former BBC Director of News.


If you are familiar with Sam’s Chop House in Leeds or the similar operation in Manchester, then you will be pleased to note that a new addition to the Victorian Chop House Company’s range of eateries has just opened.


Situated just across from the Town Hall, is the newly opened Albert Square Chop House. Ambience is almost as important as good food for me in restaurants and this establishment has both.


The Memorial Hall building dates from 1866 and more recently was the Square Albert pub. The £3.5m refit has been tastefully done, preserving the best features of the Venetian Gothic-style building. In addition to the restaurant there is a private dining boardroom and 100 capacity function room, all handy facilities in the heart of the city.


On the day I was there I was able to sample a fine range of British dishes with mostly locally sourced food and some excellent wines.


I was first in the queue for a seat at the grilling of the BBC Director General over Jimmy Savile on Tuesday. God knows why George Entwhistle volunteered for the ordeal that befell him because, having set up two inquiries, he should have been lying low not exposing himself to MPs who wanted quick answers or an easy headline.


What we got was a very inexperienced DG caught in the headlights and choosing to hang out one of his senior programme editors to dry. If I was Peter Rippon, now “standing aside” from the editorship of Newsnight, I would take the transcript of the Culture Select Committee report to an employment tribunal if he loses his job permanently.


Entwhistle expressed his embarrassment and regret that Rippon’s blog on why he had spiked the Savile investigation was not accurate. He said Rippon’s reasons for not transmitting the report were not defensible. He (Entwhistle) would have transmitted it. He made it clear that he had suspended Rippon rather than the editor having volunteered to “stand aside”.


If your boss went on national media and treated you in the same way, how would you feel? The DG laid down his friend for his life big time.


The pain Rippon must be feeling at his treatment by Entwhistle must only be exceeded by his angst that he did not transmit the report on Savile’s vile behaviour. The fact that ITV scooped the BBC on their own story is a source of huge frustration throughout the corporation and explains the furious civil war that has now broken out.


Rippon is being accused of being sat on by people higher up the BBC chain of command or of lacking the courage to back his journalists. So let’s hold on a minute and reflect that we are all operating with the help of hindsight. A year ago Entwhistle, as Head of BBC Vision, had no qualms in making tribute programmes on Savile a centrepiece of his Christmas schedule. Although rumours and allegations about Savile had been around for years, Entwhistle must have felt them so insignificant that a tribute to Savile’s talent and charity work was entirely appropriate.


It reminds us that just a year ago Savile was a national treasure and the people of Leeds lined the streets as his coffin passed.


It was against this background that reporter Liz Mackean and producer Meirion Jones were preparing to bring Savile’s reputation crashing down. So, although Rippon allowed the production to get to an advanced stage, he must have looked at the state of opinion as it was then. Savile had just died amid public acclaim and the BBC was planning a Christmas celebration of the dead star. He was entitled to take a deep breath before giving the final go ahead.


Two more factors may have affected his decision. One was the huge responsibility that is put on individual programme editors in the BBC. They can talk to colleagues, but it is their call. It is a protection against pressure coming down from above, but it is an awesome individual responsibility in the end.


The other factor that might have weighed on his mind is the Trafigura affair. Peter Rippon was the editor of Newsnight in December 2009 when the BBC withdrew an allegation that the company’s dumping of hazardous waste in the Ivory Coast was directly responsible for deaths there. The report was the work of Meirion Jones and Liz Mackean. The pair rightly went on to win a major award for investigative reporting but reports suggest the BBC faced a bill of £3m if they had fought Trafigura in court.


The BBC is once again at the mercy of those who are always looking for reasons to bring it down. It has not handled this matter well and may well face further embarrassing revelations. But at the end of it all let’s remember that the person who bears ultimate responsibility for this is not George Entwhistle or Peter Rippon, but Jimmy Savile.