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 843.

    What struck me was the apparent glee with which the BBC reported the allegations against a 'top Tory'. It seems to me that the Newsnight report was rushed out (with or without Entwhistle's knowledge) mainly because it targeted the group which many in the BBC view as their ideological enemy.

    It seems that the faux-liberal neo-marxists that dominate BBC output scored an own goal with this one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 842.

    Chairman Lord Patten and D.G. Entwistle have maintained a low profile and a very light footstep since they were appointed to their very highly paid sinecures...for there seems to be precious little clarity about what their responsibilities and objectives are. The BBC ethos has changed out of all recognition since it rejected its core standards and went 'a slumming' to chase ratings and scoops.

  • rate this

    Comment number 841.

    He should've gone for hanging Peter Rippon out to dry over the Jimmy Savile scandal - when clearly the programme was supressed.

    Newsnight did NOT name Lord McAlpine - it was the police that supplied the name to the victim. Where are they in all this? Protecting their own along with the press and politicians. Get back to the story and expose these paedophiles who think they are above the law!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 840.

    What a refreshing change that such a high profile public figure has done the honourable thing when issues have got out of control under his stewardship. Cameron and his born to rule chums take note,fat chance !

  • Comment number 839.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 838.

    The BBC should calm down. It made some mistakes which it should learn from and move on. The right wing media vultures who are circling have done much worse in the past. If the Daily Mail makes a mistake it prints an apology as the answer to the 10 across clue in the crossword.

  • Comment number 837.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 836.

    This is wrong.

    Please do not accept this resignation. Admit the failing and put something in place to make sure it doesn't happen again and move on.

    The BBC is not perfect but still the best in the world. (I don't work for them)

    This is media hunting of the most horrid kind. I am sorry for Lord McAlpine but surely even he would not want this. This solves nothing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 835.

    I think the BBC was right not to originally broadcast the Savile documentary - too little evidence at the time. The BBC is too apologetic sometimes in an effort to please the licence payers. Sometimes it should stand its ground. The 'Lord McAlpine' Newsnight broadcast was a knee jerk reaction to appease, and it was wrong. All these child abuse issues should be left to the police.

  • rate this

    Comment number 834.

    What of the others on the BBC?
    They should not bee STEPPED ASIDE.. but should be sacked. Trouble is the BBC is an over bloated organisation that needs a complete overhaul.

  • rate this

    Comment number 833.

    This is media-fuelled self obsession.

    The news here isn't the BBC, it isn't Newsnight it isn't Phillip Schofield nor Entwistle - it is that child abuse has been, and likely continues to be, happening on an unimaginable scale and it absolutely must stop.

    The fact that journalists have been sloppy is important, but should be well down on the scale of media attention relative to the real issues.

  • rate this

    Comment number 832.

    He had to go. The Today interview and Select Committee before showed his ineptitude. And, there has been a fundamental journalistic failure: the claims in the Newsnight story can not have been verified adequately. The tradegy within the tradegy is that people who were abused are being let down by journalists, and not just at the BBC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 831.

    left wing beeb got it wrong again in their desire to have a go at the right (watch the neutral (lol) dimbleby on question time if you've doubts) - pull your act together and try and do what you're paid to do instead of cheap politcal shots

  • rate this

    Comment number 830.

    Re: #789

    Correction: Tom Watson said his question was not in relation to North Wales. Apologies.

  • Comment number 829.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 828.

    @728. The whole saga thus far smacks of internal politics and external conspiracy. News corp and those in the wider media, along with those politicians who have always wanted to destroy BBC independence will be rapturous. If there is any clamor for dismemberment; you can be then assured that Ms Miller and Mr Cameron will be working to Mr Murdoch's sting-pulling.

  • rate this

    Comment number 827.

    I agree with messages 75 and 92. I think this has long since stopped being purely about child abuse. The victims of that seem to have slipped right out of the headlines. This is now a gloating, opportunistic anti-BBC crusade.

    Be careful what you wish for perhaps. I, for one, don't want my only source of 'information' to be News International or, God forbid, the rumour-mongers on Twitter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 826.

    The culture of the BBC / governance of investigative journalism pre-dates Entwhistle. 54 days in the role is not enough time to fix this. That said, he failed to act visibly / recognise the importance of being seen to manage a crisis when required. Whoever takes over now permanently needs to address the root of the failure. As a licence payer, I feel tough action is now required.

  • rate this

    Comment number 825.

    BBC - isn't the bigger story today - the one more deserving of the "LIVE rolling news event pages" you so adore - the story of Remembrance Sunday when we remember those who laid down their lives (not their well paid jobs and pensions) so that the BBC could run ill-researched stories that end up doing more damage to the victims of abuse? But, hey, let's just navel-gaze instead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 824.

    I really don't care about this. Does this really warrant it's position as lead story or is the BBC over cautious about appearing to report fairly on itself? It's the equivalent of sending a family update newsletter in your Christmas cards, you're assuming people are as interested in you as you are..


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