WITH Lord Patten’s position as chairman of the BBC Trust under mounting pressure, support has been offered in the city, where he is Chancellor of Oxford University.
Lord Patten has faced calls for his resignation from MPs as the crisis engulfing the BBC worsened, with news that Lord Patten approved a £450,000 pay-off for the corporation’s former director-general George Entwistle.
The payout, worth twice as much as Mr Entwistle was entitled to, was criticised by the Prime Minister as hard to justify.
But Lord Patten should keep both his job at the BBC and as Oxford University’s ceremonial head, said one senior university figure and leading media commentator, Will Hutton.
Mr Hutton, former editor-in-chief of The Observer, who is now principal of Hertford College, said those demanding more blood-letting at the BBC needed a greater sense of proportion.
Mr Hutton, who recently conducted an inquiry into public sector salaries for Prime Minister David Cameron, said: “Lord Patten carries more battle scars than he did and he would be the first to admit that.
“But he is an effective operator and a good man, who is a widely-respected Chancellor of Oxford University.
“At a time like this it is easy to call for his resignation. But it is starting to get like Medieval England with people wanting to see more blood loss.
“There is no reason for him to go. It wasn’t Lord Patten who was in charge of those making the journalistic calls.
“He is now doing what needs to be done. I really cannot see the point in creating another vacancy at the top at an organisation that badly needs to get a grip.”
Mr Hutton said horrific journalistic mistakes had been made on Newsnight, when a former top Tory was wrongly linked to a child sex scandal, but four had paid for them with their careers, including Mr Entwistle.
Mr Hutton said: “I would say 99.9 per cent of what goes out of the BBC is excellent.
“I think we need to get a sense of proportion here. The enemies of the BBC are now circling the wagons, with calls for the BBC to be smaller and broken up.”
Mr Hutton believed that Lord Patten had been damaged by the £450,000 payout to Mr Entwistle, with the sense of outrage predictable.
He said: “It is another damaging thing that the BBC could have avoided in the current climate.”
While the payout to Mr Entwistle was an “awful” outcome, Mr Hutton said he understood how it had happened. Sacking Mr Entwistle could well have proved a far costlier alternative, fraught with legal difficulties.
Mr Hutton was commissioned two years ago to carry out a review into public sector pay, with recommendations to promote pay fairness in the public sector by tackling disparities between the lowest and the highest paid.
Another senior Oxford college head, Frances Cairncross, the rector of Exeter College, expressed her support for Lord Patten.
She said: “I do not know enough about what has happened at the BBC to comment, but I would say that Lord Patten seems to be a good and enthusiastic chancellor of the university.”
Lord Patten, the former Conservative Party chairman, became Chancellor of Oxford University in 2003 and was made £110,000-a-year chairman of the BBC Trust in May 2011.