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.


More on This Story


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 923.

    There are several layers of management under Mr Entwistle that have also failed, I wonder why none of them have fallen on their sword.

  • rate this

    Comment number 922.

    All the "Holier than Thou" politicians should look in the mirror and realise if they resign from a post they will still be paid as an MP. How many MPs resigned because they were dishonourable in claiming expenses they were not entitled to (oops they made a mistake!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 921.

    Look on the bright side. The Corporation has a vast pool of gifted and impartial employees from which a leader might emerge. Many of them have
    wide experience [ i.e., they used to work at the Guardian ] and several are
    capable of speaking to a camera without waving their hands around.
    Polly Toynbee perhaps? Well balanced views on EU, Euro, Global warming,
    could work from her Tuscan refuge.

  • rate this

    Comment number 920.

    Two ways of looking at this.

    1) He's only been in the job such a short while - how could his actions have influenced this - but top man needs to go; or

    2) He wasn't up to the job and is using this as an easy exit.

    I suspect number 2.

  • rate this

    Comment number 919.

    The BBC, Mr Entwistle and the Newsnight programme have deliberately or otherwise become the news in this case when our total focus should be on bringing the criminals who abused children to justice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 918.

    The DG was right to go. He put up a poor defence, more interested in following procedures than prioritising his work.

    He was unable to robustly defend the BBC in interviews. The BBC relies on interviews - the man at the top must be able to handle them.

    A wrong appointment by establishment friends. At least he's honourable; more than can be said for many fat cats and politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 917.

    It has been obvious for some time that the news service of the BBC has a significant left wing political bias. They obviously thought that they had a Tory into which they could sink their teeth but got it all wrong and must now pay the price, hope Mcalpine sues them for millions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 916.

    I'm afraid we no live in a world of sloppy fleet street Journalism, Social Media tramps and the trolls and gossip that now counts as information and Politics that requires no real ideas just spin and presentation. Its not just the BBC who are responsible for failing real victims of abuse its the Government,Councils,CPS,Police and other groups who stand by while it happens. Where are their heads?

  • rate this

    Comment number 915.

    Time to cut the BBC down to size. This scandal was a typical BBC Tory witchhunt

  • rate this

    Comment number 914.

    Once again the BBC get it wrong but walks away untouched. Who will pay the compensation which will be paid out when Lord McAlpine sues them? The licence payer as usual.
    These people FAIL to do their job and are not brought to book over it.
    They need to sack all the senior managers at the BBC including Patton and find people who can run the company properly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 913.

    The DG resigning is not the answer. He should not be expected to know in advance every little blunder made by journalist but he should be there to sort them out and discipline those responsible. What is needed is someone who is prepared to 'kick a few backsides' and not be ashamed to do it. The BBC is now no further 'forward' than they were when G.E. was appointed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 912.

    I think he was one of those "faces of England" in its the newest history. He is one of the best manager as we had met in the common history of a modern capitalism. BBC is one of the best networks, which is shown especially in a great contact with their watchers and listeners. Nice thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 911.

    joolskye What a strange comment. The DG is not a "celeb" fortunately, stope trying to equate everyone with the same level of numb responses as a participant in sopa opera.

  • rate this

    Comment number 910.

    And this is headline news, more important than remembering our fallen on Remembrance Sunday...o dear BBC you do have your priorities all wrong..

  • rate this

    Comment number 909.

    Paxman has it best: "...brought low by cowards and incompetents". The BBC desperately needs to get a grip on a journalistic culture that's been wounded near to death by the funding cuts imposed by the government, and then it needs to grow a collective spine and face down the opportunistic bullies in the right wing press.

  • rate this

    Comment number 908.

    Sometimes (often) reading HYS feels like being thrown back to the McCarthy era US: gullible people brainwashed into believing in some conspiracy theory about left-wing propaganda. It's growing tiresome that some people don't evolve and hold everyone else back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 907.

    If I was the BBC, I wouldn't get too hung up about any of this. In 6 months time it will all be forgotten.
    To put it in perspective, remember Gordon Brown sold the UKs gold reserves for a fraction of their worth and he stayed in his job for years and is probably now enjoying his huge tax payer funded pension.

    I'd still rather have the BBC than Sky any day, (and no I don't work for the BBC).

  • rate this

    Comment number 906.

    Schofield, whose crass stunt was worse in every possible way, will likely keep his job as he pulls in the punters, which is all a commercial station cares about as long as they can weather the short-term storm.

    Entwhistle's resignation shows the accountability that a publicly-funded broadcaster gives us. It's just a shame it's become accountable to the right-wing press rather than the public

  • rate this

    Comment number 905.

    If you want balanced news coverage watch Al Jazeera. Meanwhile, the celeb culture bandwagon on the BBC (Strictly Come Dancing) and other channels roles on!

  • rate this

    Comment number 904.

    At a time of considerable suspicion and questionable editorial decisions lower down the ranks, one of the few shining lights has gone. A real shame he was not encouraged to stay and resolve the problems as I really feel he was the person to do it. An honerble course of action yes, please don't let it go to waste. Come on BBC, get your house in order.


Page 16 of 62


More UK stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.