BBC director general resigns over "shoddy journalism"

LONDON Sat Nov 10, 2012 10:12pm GMT

BBC director general George Entwistle speaks to the members of the media after appearing before a Culture and Media Committee hearing at Parliament in London October 23, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

BBC director general George Entwistle speaks to the members of the media after appearing before a Culture and Media Committee hearing at Parliament in London October 23, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Andrew Winning

Related Topics

LONDON (Reuters) - BBC Director General George Entwistle resigned on Saturday, just two months into the job, after the state-funded broadcaster put out a programme denounced by the corporation's chairman as shoddy journalism.

The BBC, reeling from revelations that one of its former stars was a paedophile, brought further problems on its head when a flagship news programme aired a mistaken allegation that a former senior politician sexually abused children.

The BBC had already issued a full apology on Friday, but on Saturday its director general had to admit under questioning from his own journalists that he had not known in advance about the Newsnight report, weeks after being accused of being too hands-off over the previous scandal on the same programme.

Accepting Entwistle's resignation, BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten said: "This is undoubtedly one of the saddest evenings of my public life.

"At the heart of the BBC is its role as a trusted global news organisation.

"As the editor-in-chief of that 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."

Entwistle quit after strong criticism over the Newsnight programme.

"I listened to the director general with increasing disbelief," John Whittingdale, chairman of parliament's powerful media committee, told Reuters. "The level of failure of management at every level within the BBC, up to and including the director general, is just extraordinary."

The BBC and its bosses have been under huge pressure since a rival broadcaster carried charges last month that the late Jimmy Savile, one of the most recognisable personalities on British television in the 1970s and 80s, was a prolific sex offender.


Suggestions have surfaced of a paedophile ring inside the broadcaster at the time and a BBC cover-up. To complicate matters for Entwistle, Newsnight pulled a planned expose of Savile shortly after his death last year, and the BBC went ahead with tribute shows.

Having been widely criticised for not broadcasting that expose, which led to its editor stepping aside, Newsnight is now being lambasted for its November 2 report on sexual abuse at children's care homes in North Wales during the 1970s.

Steve Messham, a witness, told Newsnight that a senior Conservative had raped him when he was a child in one of the homes.

Newsnight did not identify the politician, but the name of Alistair McAlpine, Conservative Party treasurer from 1975 to 1990 during Margaret Thatcher's premiership, quickly appeared on the Internet and social media sites.

On Friday, McAlpine went public to rigorously deny the allegations and threaten legal action.

Hours later, Messham said he had misidentified McAlpine to Newsnight. The programme admitted it had not approached McAlpine for a comment, or shown Messham a picture of McAlpine, before airing the report.

Castigated for what he agreed was a slow response to the Savile disclosures, Entwistle demanded a report on the incident by Sunday and suspended all Newsnight investigations.

The erroneous Newsnight report had been cleared by senior managers and lawyers, and commentators queried why Entwistle had been kept in the dark in the wake of the furore over Savile.

(Editing by Stephen Powell)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (2)
freemycatfish wrote:
The BBC has a tried and tested policy for dealing with any critical complaint no matter how large or small. It goes like this:

1. Respond with a pre worded and superior sounding letter that tells the complainant that they (The BBC) take complaints very seriously but on this occasion, the complainant has no idea what they are talking about and all is well.

2. Hope the complaint and complainant goes away.

3. If the complaint emerges again, go into denial and claim all is well.

4. If the complaint continues become defensive and/or aggressive in denial.

5. Blame someone else and try to switch attention off the BBC by attacking a public figure.

6. Wait for everything to settle down and continue with business as usual. Relying on other journalists not to pursue the matter for too long.

7. Tell everyone in the country over and over again that the BBC is the most trusted organisation in the country in the hope they will have short memories and forget past indiscretions but failing to see the public, unlike the media, do remember for a long time.

Nov 10, 2012 4:40pm GMT  --  Report as abuse
gowar wrote:
Things have taken on a farcical air at the BBC with John Humphries actually interrogating his own boss on this mornings “Today” programme & asking him whether he (Entwistle) will now do the right thing & resign!
He will surely get the grilling of his life when he appears (again) in front of the all-party media committee later in the month.

Nov 10, 2012 7:07pm GMT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.