Boaden and Mitchell to stand aside

Broadcasting House

Helen Boaden and Steve Mitchell have been asked to surrender all their responsibilities as head and deputy head of BBC News, pending the results of the Pollard inquiry, I have learned.

The new acting director general of the BBC, Tim Davie, and the chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten, have concluded that BBC News needs a new clear line of management control.

They have asked Fran Unsworth, head of Newsgathering, and Ceri Thomas, editor of the Today Programme to fill their respective roles, for the time being.

Mr Davie and Lord Patten are understood to believe that Ms Boaden's and Mr Mitchell's decision to withdraw from all decision-making on the way the BBC reports the Jimmy Savile scandal has created confusion at BBC News about who is in charge.

There is likely to be widespread anger within BBC News at what will be seen as a pre-empting of the results of Nick Pollard's investigation into why Newsnight abandoned an investigation into Jimmy Savile's paedophile activities last December.

The decision to ask Ms Boaden and Mr Mitchell to stand aside will be rooted in the results of this weekend's investigation into a later journalistic mistake by Newsnight, its broadcast 10 days ago of allegations that a senior Tory was involved in child abuse.

However, neither Ms Boaden or Mr Mitchell were in the decision-making chain that led to Newsnight's broadcast.


As I understand it, the senior editorial figure who signed off the broadcast, Adrian Van Klaveren, will today return to his job as controller of BBC Radio 5 Live.

Over the weekend, I consulted colleagues on what they thought ought to be the consequence of the latest debacle at Newsnight.

Many said they believed Ms Boaden and Mr Mitchell ought to be put firmly back in charge of news, because of the perception that they would never have permitted the latest child abuse story to have run on Newsnight.

As for what the Pollard review may conclude about the conduct of Ms Boaden and Mr Mitchell, I understand that Peter Rippon - the suspended editor of Newsnight - does not believe he was put under pressure by either Ms Boaden or Mr Mitchell to pull the Savile investigation.

Any criticism of them is therefore likely to be for the long delay in correcting a blog by Mr Rippon about Newsnight's failure to run the Savile film.

My understanding is that Mr Davie believes it is unfair to ask Ms Boaden and Mr Mitchell to continue in their day jobs with the shadow of the Pollard inquiry hanging over them.

He believes that George Entwistle's effectiveness as Director General was undermined by the fact he too was being probed by Mr Pollard. Mr Entwistle resigned on Saturday.

I have learned that lawyers acting for Ms Boaden and Mr Mitchell have informed Mr Davie that they are quite capable of running BBC News, even with the uncertainty created by the Pollard inquiry.

Robert Peston Article written by Robert Peston Robert Peston Economics editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    How are Portugueses reacting to austerity measures?

    Monday meeting with Merkel had to be held in a fortress to protect her from an enthusiastic crowd, as Der SPIEGEL reports:

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    Former BBC director general Mark Thompson has started his new job as chief executive and president of the New York Times Co.

    His appointment has been questioned by some staff at NYT since Thompson was still in chargé when program about sex abuse claims surrounding BBC presenter Jimmy Savile was axed. And he is to testify what did he know about it and when did he know it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    Given the public furore over shelving the Savile Newsnight investigation, rushing to broadcast a story implicating the Conservatives in similar allegations suggests that it is self interest that is in the BBC's DNA, not impartiality. Can anyone tell me by what magic the BBC can be confident all its output is impartial but then need weeks to investigate the Savile decision?

  • Comment number 296.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    For an organisation with 'impartiality in its DNA” why is it so hard for the BBC to spot when impartiality is the central issue. We know from Panorama that there was enough Newsnight evidence to question the Christmas tributes to Savile. Once it was clear that his actions could embarrass the BBC shelving the investigation and broadcasting the tributes regardless couldn't possibly be impartial.

  • Comment number 294.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    I have worked for major global organisations with significant management changes, and it doesn't even make the business pages. Once again, the BBC and its employees demonstrate their self obsession. They need to realise that this story is only of interest to them and their media colleagues. The sooner the BBC is privatised so much the better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    It takes a hurt to learn. Lesson 1: There is no substitute for clear simple line management. Lesson 2: The more serious the allegation the more certain the facts have to be. Lesson 3: Management by walking about pays,


  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    Post 289 surely they have to be suspended pending the results of the enquiry.
    If the Head and Deputy Head of News aren't responsible then who is?
    There needs to be a cleansing of the stables at the BBC and it is a Herculean task. I for one have no confidence in the BBC Trust and Senior Management at the BBC to do it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    Not business news sorry - we need proper business journalism - too many BBC journalists are behaving like hungry pigs at an empty trough - and boy what a trough it was, and look how fat those hungry pigs are!

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    I love and trust the BBC and do not want to see any further damage from those who oppose it on political and economic grounds.
    Why should Helen Boaden and Steve Mitchell be forced to stand aside? There is no evidence that they have made mistakes. Is the BBC looking to apportion blame before the outcome of the enquiries?
    Stupid decision about the pay off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    #286 like like comment and except yr appoloy.

    trouble is that the BBC removed one of mine for bieng off topic on a blog after that closed one down early.

    This is how the BBC manipulated the news agenda and the blogs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    Resign or sacked after less than 2 months and get a full years dosh for free? What kind of contract is that? Most employees start on 3 month probationary period, if they prove unsatisfactory they can be dismissed within that time. If the BBC are contracting staff on the basis of a full year dosh whether you do it or not, (and what about that amount, how much does the PM get?) show me the queue!

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    A draft eurozone document suggests Greece should get two more years to meet budget goals, but that this will add 32bn euros to its bailout.

    [sorry again for being off-topic in the business blog]

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    Whoever authorized this obscene severance practice should be named, shamed and sacked. If you resign and do not serve your notice period you should get nothing like any other ordinary worker.

    yet again this country shows one set of rules for the ruling elite and another for the ordinary 99% of workers

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    Why were Boaden and Mitchell allowed to "stand aside " ? If they were in the chain of command responsible for the debacle, they should have been removed from post as an example to any others without the competence to fulfil the requirements of the post they are holding. As in a lot of other public services, incompetence seems to be overlooked in the BBC in the interests of convenience.

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.


    Unbelievable! You accuse BBC people of stitching up their colleagues based on what exactly? A funny feeling in your water?

    You've just done exactly what the Newsnight people did wrong. They didn't get facts, check them and know what they were talking about before opening their gobs.

    They left themselves open and when it went wrong ....

    If they'd done it right...

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    I sense you`re abgry over an injustice it politics..?

    Bit hard to judge from the outside..however on R4 they said Ms Boaden and Mr Mitchell recused themselves..which muddies the waters somewhat...

    It does seem the News dept are running out of capable managers with safe hands...does seem the Bureau for Investigative Journo`s editor was more than irrresponsible...


  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    Pandora's box was opened and no-one had the foresight to see where it could lead.

    A sad reflection on the lack of understanding that history cannot be changed and the best way to tackle such an emotive subject is to learn from it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    Loss-making airline SAS is to cut jobs, pay and pensions and sell some assets as part of a deal to secure loans from banks and Nordic governments.

    The measures will cut the number of workers at SAS from 15,000 to 9,000.

    [Oops, sorry! That's off topic too in a business blog]


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