George Entwistle resigns as BBC director general


George Entwistle and BBC Chairman Lord Patten give their statements outside Broadcasting House

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.

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, who appeared alongside Mr Entwistle when he delivered his statement, will answer questions on the BBC's Andrew Marr programme on Sunday morning.

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."

'Great honour'

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.

George Entwistle said he was stepping down because as director general of the BBC he was also its editor in chief.

He said it was the honourable thing to do after a BBC Newsnight film alleged child abuse by an unnamed Conservative politician - which was proved to be unfounded.

Coming on top of the Jimmy Savile crisis, which was prompted partly by the fact that Newsnight had shelved an earlier investigation into allegations of child abuse, this was particularly damaging to the BBC.

But this was also about the handling of the crisis. Last month, Mr Entwistle was accused by MPs of showing "an extraordinary lack of curiosity" over the Jimmy Savile affair and they told him to "get a grip".

On Saturday in an interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he said he knew nothing in advance about the Newsnight broadcast nor had he seen a newspaper report revealing Lord McAlpine may have been wrongly accused.

MPs, former editors and broadcasting executives were unimpressed and so, I understand, were members of the BBC Trust.

On Sunday, the job of acting director-general will be taken by Tim Davie, who's been running the radio side of the BBC but who has no direct journalistic experience.

The BBC still faces very serious questions, not just about its journalism but about how the organisation is run.

This crisis - one of the most serious in the BBC's history - is not yet over.

"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 programme 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 programme 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."

Acting DG

Start Quote

The corporation finds itself wounded, under attack and, in effect, leaderless”

End Quote

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 programmes."

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 United Kingdom 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 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.

Wrongly identified

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw: "Who else is going to clear up this mess? I'm very worried"

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.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    And Philip Schofield's resignation is where?

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    And when will Phillip Schofield resign?

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    As a representative of 'joe public' I cannot understand this resignation. This guy has worked for the BBC for 23 years and two months into his latest role.

    The problems lie much lower in the management chain and the inquiries should have been given a chance to investigate and report their findings.

    This current witch hunt is totally wrong and must stop until these inquiries are complete.

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    For those who sympathise with the BBC over this in comparison with the Savile story just consider these factors: There was extensive evidence to accuse Savile, but they chose to ignore it because it didn't fit with the BBC agenda so they withheld it. The was no evidence to accuse Lord McAlpine but they broadcast a limited list of possible names to help you select a suspect Tory.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    I bet he gets a good enough pension - and has enough other sinecures not to worry about this one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    North Wales police have gone very quiet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    I love the BBC
    It just can`t win
    To Biased ....not Biased enough
    I wish I worked for the beeb so I could resign.
    You can`t fix things that happened 30 years wrong as they might be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    Helen Boaden, Head of News.
    Steve Mitchell, Deputy Head of News and also head of News Programmes of which Newsnight is part.

    It is time to do the right thing and follow George out the door.

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.


    now lets get rid of the licence fee

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    George Entwistle was certainly thrown in at the deep end and seemed unable to swim.

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    229. Ron

    The BBC are as left wing as the labour party
    Not left wing at all then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    I felt I was a bit harsh about Enwhistle. I think he has been honourable this evening and I respect him for that. He took flack for his subordinates in the bargain basement-journo pool - AKA Newsnight. He handled it poorly but he had the temerity to walk the plank, unlike those other planks!

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    Newsnight's 'offences'

    I recall the Tory Minister allegation from the 70s & that is was a case of mistaken identity - so why didn't the BBC do so as they have a proper news/cuttings archive?

    The Savile case was another matter and my guess is that it was due to institutional deference within the BBC - something that can and does occur in most organisations.

    The DG just wasn't a good performer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    So many Big Wigs have walked away from scandal without a scratch recently it’s refreshing to see that vicarious responsibility still applies. It is a key tenet of our society and it is vital that it is respected. I’m not glad to see Entwistle go but I am delighted that leaders everywhere have been reminded that they get paid the amounts they do for a reason. That reason is responsibility.

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    In response to 231.

    The problem is they ran a story which was untrue and libellous. So they cannot win. Nothing unfair about that, just very very bad journalism. Better is expected of the BBC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    the bbc DOESN'T show a report that accuses a dead man of being a peadophine with little factual evidence and they're bombarded with criticism, then they DO show a report accusing someone of being a peadophile with little factual evidence and the director general has to resign... they appear to be constantly operating on a lose-lose basis at the moment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    I feel sorry for him more than anything else. He's been in the job for all of two months and had to deal with this mess almost immediately. Not to mention that the only error here was in reporting what the police had identified as a top conservative, though they don't appear to get much criticism for this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    Resignation of George Entwistle as BBC Director General is to say the least bizarre. He appears to have been pushed.

    It is the BBC Trust that should resign.

    More shoddy reporting by BBC news. On Radio 4 Ten O’Clock News it was claimed Newsnight implicated Lord McAlpine. They did not say senior Tory of Thatcher era who just happened to be Party Treasurer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    A truly bizarre episode...... I'd of had the head of ITV for Philip Schofield's stunt on the PM but Entwistle?!?

    The Problem is this is all distraction from the fact that the as yet unknown abusers who sparked this off are once again slipping out of attention. Now, as a right minded person, that is the only shocking thing happening here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    Privatise the bbc and transfer the business to ITV and then all the left wingers on this site will have to go to Speakers Corner in Hyde Park to vent their opinions on how it is best to live off the taxpayer.


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