Monday, November 12th 2012 - 02:46 UTC

BBC infighting the big news, while it struggles to recover from a credibility shock

The BBC's director general, George Entwistle, has resigned in the wake of the Newsnight child abuse broadcast. He said that as the man “ultimately responsible for all content, and in the light of the unacceptable journalistic standards” he would quit.

George Entwistle and Lord Patten making the announcement (Photo PA)

Tim Davie, head of BBC Audio and Music takes over as acting director general

Mr Entwistle had admitted Newsnight's report, which led to Thatcher-era Tory Lord McAlpine being wrongly implicated, should not have been aired. The broadcast covered cases of child abuse at north Wales care homes. BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten appeared alongside Mr Entwistle when he delivered his statement.

Mr Entwistle took up the post of director general on 17 September, and his sudden resignation makes him the shortest-serving BBC director general.

In his statement, he said: “In the light of the fact that the director general is also the editor-in-chief and ultimately responsible for all content, and in the light of the unacceptable journalistic standards of the Newsnight film broadcast on Friday 2 November, I have decided that the honourable thing to do is to step down from the post of director general”.

He said that when he was appointed to the role, he was confident BBC trustees had chosen the best candidate for the post and the “right person to tackle the challenges and opportunities ahead”.

“However, the wholly exceptional events of the past few weeks have led me to conclude that the BBC should appoint a new leader,” he said.

“To have been the director general of the BBC even for a short period, and in the most challenging of circumstances, has been a great honour.

”We must not lose sight of the fact that the BBC is full of people of the greatest talent and the highest integrity. That's what will continue to make it the finest broadcaster in the world.“

Later, speaking outside his home following his resignation, Mr Entwistle said he was going to ”spend some time with my family“.

During his 54 days in charge, Mr Entwistle has also had to deal with controversy over the BBC shelving a Newsnight investigation into former BBC presenter and DJ Jimmy Savile, who police say could have abused as many as 300 people over a 40-year-period.

As a result, an inquiry is examining whether there were BBC management failings surrounding the Newsnight's Savile program not being broadcast, and another inquiry has begun into the culture and practices at the BBC in the era of alleged sexual abuse by Savile. Another review is to examine sexual harassment policies at the BBC.

Mr Entwistle's resignation came after he was criticised for his performance during an interview on the BBC's Radio 4 Today program on Saturday, in which he admitted he had not read a newspaper article revealing the case of mistaken identity involving Lord McAlpine, and that he had not seen the Newsnight broadcast when it aired on 2 November as he ”was out“.

Lord Patten said: ”This is undoubtedly one of the saddest evenings of my public life.“ He added: ”At the heart of the BBC is its role as a trusted global news organisation.

“As the editor in chief of that news organisation George has very honourably offered us his resignation because of the unacceptable mistakes - the unacceptable shoddy journalism - which has caused us so much controversy.

”He has behaved as editor with huge honour and courage and would that the rest of the world always behaved the same.“

Culture Secretary Maria Miller said: ”It is a regrettable, but right decision. It is vital that credibility and public trust in this important national institution is restored. It is now crucial that the BBC puts the systems in place to ensure it can make first-class news and current affairs programs“.

But Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, who sits on the culture select committee, said Mr Entwistle's departure was a ”terrible mistake“ and that he had been ”hung out to dry“.

He described Mr Entwistle as ”an honourable, highly talented, very, very good man who is trying to do the right thing“.

”George Entwistle has been badly let down by BBC News managers and the people around him. He was trying to get to grips with that. The BBC should have given him time.“

Conservative MP Philip Davies, who also sits on the culture select committee, said Lord Patten should resign. ”He is responsible for the public's trust in the BBC,“ Mr Davies told the BBC. ”That trust is at an all time low“.

Tim Davie, director of BBC Audio and Music, will take over as acting director general immediately.

BBC home editor Mark Easton said the BBC was at a ”real crossroads, because its whole future depends on convincing the public in the UK that this is an organisation in which they have confidence, and in which they have trust, and that they believe in the integrity of our news coverage“.

BBC Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman said Mr Entwistle's departure was ”a great shame“. He added “he has been brought low by cowards and incompetents.”

Newsnight reported on 2 November abuse victim Steve Messham's claims against a leading 1980s Tory politician, but he withdrew his accusation a week later, saying he had been mistaken. Lord McAlpine, although not named on Newsnight, was identified on the internet as the subject of the allegations.

Mr Messham apologised to Lord McAlpine saying he was not the man who assaulted him, while Lord McAlpine said the claims were “wholly false and seriously defamatory”.

The BBC has ordered an “immediate pause” in Newsnight investigations to assess editorial robustness and a suspension of all co-productions with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which worked on the Newsnight broadcast.

Before his departure, Mr Entwistle had commissioned a report from BBC Scotland director Ken MacQuarrie into what happened with the Newsnight investigation.

11 comments Feed

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1 Marcos Alejandro (#) Nov 12th, 2012 - 03:01 am Report abuse
What about the Tory paedophile scandal?

“Claims the senior politician from the Thatcher era arrived in limo for horrific attacks at care home”
2 Troy Tempest (#) Nov 12th, 2012 - 03:35 am Report abuse
@1 Marcos

Read the latest, the witness has said he was mistaken - it was NOT this man.

He apologised, a couple of days ago.

Try to keep up. If you are going to be a Troll, don't be a lazy fool.
3 Marcos Alejandro (#) Nov 12th, 2012 - 03:56 am Report abuse
Sorry Troy, I was busy watching your show Stingray, meanwhile your fellow Brit tories were busy in some North Wales care home abusing children..
4 Troy Tempest (#) Nov 12th, 2012 - 04:06 am Report abuse
@3 Marcos

You had best post that link - if you think it is relevant and true.

At least things in Britain get reported and dealt with.

I am sure that the same or worse goes on in your country, Argentina.

I believe, that “Sussie” was on here whining for sympathy and 'understanding' because of his upbringing in cruel Argentina - he went on to cite abuse of infants and toddlers in Argentine daycares.

That was YOUR troll making the statements, and the Trolls are always truthful and correct, right ??

The fact that you revel in this sleaze exposes you as the odorous, morally bankrupt, slime that you are.

And no, I do not think you are witty.
5 Marcos Alejandro (#) Nov 12th, 2012 - 04:41 am Report abuse
4 Johnny Troy “At least things in Britain get reported and dealt with”

Suuure like Jimmy Savile, 300 victims, almost half a century later and after the predator died.
6 Troy Tempest (#) Nov 12th, 2012 - 04:58 am Report abuse
It is dealt with, not covered up. The courts will do their best.

Don't fool yourself that it does not happen in Argentina, maybe worse.

What happened to the children that Menendez stole from the Amerindians, during the ethnic- cleansing of the 70's??

I don't suppose we'll ever know. That was the Argentine government policy, officially sanctioned.
What kind of moral society could even conceive of this ??

Perhaps you were in the military and can tell us.
Your officers were discussing the advantages of complete genocide as a solution to the Falklands 'population problem'.
Too bad they were too much in a rush to surrender, to get around to it...
7 Marcos Alejandro (#) Nov 12th, 2012 - 05:09 am Report abuse
Changing the subject? Which Menendez officer? we have a whole collection of them in jail, Jimmy Savile ended his long abuse of British children not because justice was brought to him but because he died.
8 Troy Tempest (#) Nov 12th, 2012 - 05:37 am Report abuse
It must be a slow night for La Campora.

I am not at issue with you over Seville. It was reprehensible and everyone is trying to do what they can, in the aftermath.
This not condoned as acceptable behaviour.

Changing the subject? You yourself went off on a tangent of child abuse. The fact that you are reading about it shows that these things are not tolerated and will be exposed.

On the other hand,
Menendez himself was only arrested this year, 30 years after the Falklsnds, 35 years after the 'disappearances' and 'ethnic cleansing.'

Your government and society, far from treating him as a criminal, and investigating his actions when the “Mothers” could not be ignored, denied it.

Instead, he was later rewarded the highest position in your armed forces, installing his values on generations of the military. This was right ip until 2009.

Menendez was only arrested after he had retired 'honourably', a transparent attention-getter for CFK, needing to shore up her Populist support.

Perhaps you want to stay on the current subject instead of muck-raking, there is much that Argentina should not be proud of.

Go read up on the subject. You seem to get some morbid,perverse, pleasure from these sickening events. Doesn't say much for you.
9 Guzz (#) Nov 12th, 2012 - 06:35 am Report abuse
TCC will always be remembered for their fine documents and excellent footage....
10 Doveoverdover (#) Nov 12th, 2012 - 08:08 am Report abuse
This is not our finest hour. In my opinion as a license fee payer, Patten has to go too. He was responsible for appointing the inadequately motivated Entwistle to lead the bloated BBC hierarchy that he, Patten, now publicly recognises as being wholly inadequate to the task of running the BBC. Then to pay Entwistle twice the contracted amount to go is to rub salt into the wound. The lawyer who drew up Entwistle's contract also needs to find other employment; in the southern hemisphere perhaps.
11 British_Kirchnerist (#) Nov 14th, 2012 - 10:47 pm Report abuse
These establishment figures make me sick, Entwhistle should have gone already over Saville...

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