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 903.

    Unfortunately, the BBC was asking for trouble when it jumped on the Jimmy Saville bandwagon. Of course the BBC wants to be seen to be on the side of the victims, but once they started taking short cuts with due process they were going to get something wrong sooner or later.

    My only question if why, if Entwistle has to go, we're not also sacking the editor of every tabloid paper.

  • rate this

    Comment number 902.

    once again we see how biased the BBC really are lie about wars lie about anything you want with impunity but you lie about a tory and you are gone

  • rate this

    Comment number 901.

    Over-reaction after over-reaction. Newsnight wrong to over-react to shelving of one story. And wrong to rush Messham interview. Despite biased headlines, Entwistle actually did well at House of Commons committee if you actually watch it. And Humphreys completely OTT in Today interview. Now we've lost a perfectly decent man. When are you going to grow up Britain?

  • rate this

    Comment number 900.

    807. mattmatt81
    Phillip Schofield’s list was a list of Tory’s, and produced on an ITV show, how is that different. What this was in reality, was foolishness by the BBC, having been accused of being slow with the Seville story they thought they had better be on the ball with this one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 899.

    Don't be daft.
    There's no conspiracy, no left-wing bias, no corruption.
    The problem Auntie must address is arrogance, which shows itself (occasionally) in careless opinion and reporting, aggressive interviewing and condescension - no room to provide examples. Just rap a few knuckles and all will be well, or at least better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 898.

    The Sun's crass and gleeful front page tells us that Rupert Murdoch is happy about George Entwistle's resignation - it suits Murdoch that the BBC should be defamed.
    Jeremy Paxman's comments tell us that anyone with an ounce of thought should be saddened that a good man has been brought down.

  • rate this

    Comment number 897.

    The Beeb's damage limitation and PR experts are promoting the line that Entwistle did the honourable thing by deciding resigning. What tosh! Resigning from publically funded orgs. ensures the most generous severance payments and the quickest way to his next appointment.Failure of this magnitude In the private sector, would result in him and a lot of others being sacked, with no pay off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 896.

    Why do our communication chiefs have no communication skills? His predecessor's stuttering utterances were abysmal and GE's nervous schoolboy demeanor a total embarrassment. His need to read from a prepared script showed a complete lack of personal skills. Where have all the great characters gone from public life?

  • rate this

    Comment number 895.

    Lord M is extremeley lucky to be able to prove he was almost never in the area.

    Memory after 30 years is not clear - it can be affected by other influences which convince the accuser of circumstances which are wrong (not the horrific abuse though which will remain quite clear.)

    These scatter accusations are very difficult to defeat in an era when "innocent till proved guilty" is old hat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 894.

    I'm not a fan of the BBC, as I understand that it is an anachronism with a left-wing agenda, but I do not agree with this resignation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 893.

    Somewhere there is a manager directly responsible for the editorial content of Newsnight. He also has a direct line manager above him. If these people did not check that the journalists below them had absolutely, without a shadow of doubt, checked the identification of Lord McAlpine, they should be dismissed immediately for "gross negligence" or whatever the BBC employment regs say. Simple.

  • rate this

    Comment number 892.

    Always good to have a scapegoat ready to fall on his sword. What other media group anywhere in the world would have the balls to admit they ever get anything wrong?

  • rate this

    Comment number 891.

    I agree; the news is the abuse. And I can remember that one of the allegations at the time of the original enquiry was that one of the abusers was a prominent Tory politician.

  • rate this

    Comment number 890.

    It is sad that George Entwistle has resigned, as he is not the man to blame, other heads must roll. Mr Entwistle has taken the bullet for others, who did'nt do thier job correctly. After the Savile situation and the Ross, Brand fiasco, is it time we started to ask if the BBC is fit for purpose and should TV licence money be given to them? Maybe the time has come for the TV licence to be abolished.

  • rate this

    Comment number 889.

    Let The BBC Go !
    We have sold off so many assets and yet we hang on to The BBC?
    Sell it off ! Then whoever that's it over can start paying for it via advertising.
    Plus no more license for us to pay!
    Most of the sport shown is covered with adverts anyway.
    One condition!
    That the word British is taken out of the name.
    It seems that The BBC reflects how stands are dropping in this couuntry

  • rate this

    Comment number 888.

    It is a pitty you dont have the same pre-moderated test or house rules with you television programs poor old George might still have his job double standards if you dont like what we say on hear you scrap it is pitty you dont apply the same rules to what you broadcast

  • rate this

    Comment number 887.

    I don't know why we're so defensive when it comes to the BBC. We have to pay for them and they rarely listen to what we think. Sure we're allowed to have our say but having your say doesn't mean they'll listen and change. The BBC will always be 9/10ths government mouthpiece complete with bias and 1/10th burst of occasional honesty. When employees upset government, they have to go. Iran's laughing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 886.

    People who own up and admit there wrong are few and far between in todays society. So hats off to Entwhistle he did the correct thing admitted he was wrong and bit the bullet not like other members of the establishment who cling on by the finger nails for their last penneth worth. !!!

  • Comment number 885.

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

  • Comment number 884.

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


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