For decades, Alan Yentob was the dominant creative force at the BBC – a towering figure in British culture. So why did many applaud his very public slide from power?
“…there has been, over the years, something borderline obsessive – and therefore something sociologically revealing – about the pursuit, and eventual toppling of Yentob. No one I spoke to for this article wanted to be the first to mention antisemitism, but pretty much everyone did in the end. “A posh Jew poncing around at the public expense,” said his friend Hanif Kureishi, the writer. “What is not to hate?”
Beyond that, however, there is also a sense that outsized figures such as Yentob, paid for by the nation to make culture for the nation, may simply not be welcome in British society any more. The stitching that once held them in place has gone. Political and social faith in public broadcasting is in decline. Subsidy of the arts and education is much weaker than it was a generation ago. People who work in those sectors find themselves assailed by market forces, low-grade ministers and a sceptical rightwing media all at the same time.
Seen from the end of 2016, the reason for Yentob’s resignation and disgrace – the closure of Kids Company, a charity he chaired for 12 years – appears oddly contrived, hysterical even. Watching him interrogated by MPs and paraded before the media, colleagues at the BBC, outside the news division anyway, smelled an air of retribution for crimes that were understood but never quite spelled out.”
Written and read by Sam Knight. Produced by Simon Barnard
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