BBC needs 'radical overhaul', says Lord Patten


Lord Patten: ''I didn't try to argue him out of it because I think he'd made his mind up''

A radical "structural overhaul" of the BBC is necessary after the resignation of the director general, BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten has said.

George Entwistle quit on Saturday after a controversial Newsnight report led to a former Tory treasurer being wrongly accused as a child abuser.

He will receive a year's salary - £450,000 - as part of a pay-off.

The BBC Trust said acting director general Tim Davie would set out his initial plans on Monday.

The BBC's Norman Smith says the Trust had confirmed Mr Entwistle will be given a year's salary, even though he was legally only entitled to six months pay.

Our correspondent says it is understood the decision to give him a full year's salary was taken on Saturday night in order to reach a swift resolution to his departure.

Lord Patten has said a new director general would be chosen within weeks.

The BBC Trust said on Sunday night that it had had a discussion with Mr Davie and was "looking forward" to him setting out his plans for dealing with some of the issues arising from the 2 November Newsnight broadcast on Monday "as a first step in restoring public confidence".

'Seriously defamatory'

Before his departure, Mr Entwistle had commissioned a report from BBC Scotland director Ken MacQuarrie into what happened with the Newsnight investigation. He was expected to report to the BBC on Sunday.

On 2 November Newsnight reported abuse victim Steve Messham's claims against a leading 1980s Tory politician being an abuser in north Wales, but he withdrew his accusation a week later, saying he had been mistaken.


  • Operation Yewtree: Scotland Yard criminal investigation into claims that Jimmy Savile sexually abused young people
  • BBC investigation into management failures over the dropping of a Newsnight report into the Savile allegations
  • BBC investigation into culture and practices during Savile's career and current policies
  • BBC investigation into handling of past sexual harassment claims
  • Department of Health investigation into Savile's appointment to Broadmoor "taskforce" and his activities at Broadmoor, Stoke Mandeville Hospital and Leeds General Infirmary
  • Director of Public Prosecutions review into decisions not to prosecute Savile in 2009
  • North Wales abuse inquiry by National Crime Agency head into abuse claims from 70s and 80s, fresh claims, and police handling of the claims
  • Mrs Justice Macur appointed by PM to review the 2000 Waterhouse review which looked into the north Wales abuse
  • BBC Scotland director Ken MacQuarrie into what happened with the Newsnight investigation into north Wales abuse claims

Lord McAlpine, although not named on Newsnight, was identified on the internet as the subject of the allegations. He said the claims were "wholly false and seriously defamatory".

Lord Patten, told the BBC's Andrew Marr programme, he had to show licence fee-payers "that the BBC has a grip, that we get ourselves back on the road".

Of Mr Entwistle's departure, he said: "He's editor-in-chief of a great news organisation and I think he felt he should take responsibility for the awful journalism which disfigured that Newsnight programme [on 2 November].

"And one of the ironies is that he was a brilliantly successful editor of Newsnight himself for some time."

Mr Entwistle lasted just 54 days on the job, but Lord Patten praised him as "a very, very good man, cerebral, decent, honourable, brave".

He said it was too soon to talk of cutting Newsnight but said there was an "argument" for the BBC to look at giving the head of news a stronger role.

"I don't think you would ever want a situation in which there wasn't one person who was the boss - primus inter pares [first among equals]. But I do think you need to look at the relationship between the director general of the organisation, editorial and creative and I think that anybody but an archangel needs strong support in those areas."

BBC News management has not responded to requests for comment.

Downing Street sources say the prime minister believes the situation is "very difficult, very serious" but the BBC has the capacity to reform itself and to address failings.

Mr Cameron believes the BBC needs to "show grip" and Lord Patten "has started to make the right noises," they added.

In a tweet, Labour leader Ed Miliband said the BBC needed to put reforms in place and recruit a "strong" director general. He said it was "essential to restore trust in one of our great national assets".

Mr Entwistle was criticised for not knowing about the north Wales programme until after it screened, for not being aware of a newspaper article which revealed the mistaken identity, and for not knowing about a tweet saying Newsnight was poised to broadcast the revelations.

Lord Patten said he was aware of the tweet, which mentioned Conservative politicians, but said it would have been "grotesque interference" if he had contacted the programme then.

Tim Davie arriving at BBC New Broadcasting House on 11 November 2012 Tim Davie was appointed acting director general immediately after Mr Entwistle's resignation

"I did subsequently ask whether the programme was being properly edited, whether it was being managed, and I was assured that it was."

Mr Entwistle had said the report had gone through management and legal checks before broadcast.

Mr MacQuarrie's report is not the only inquiry into Newsnight.

One inquiry is examining whether there were BBC management failings surrounding the decision not to broadcast a Newsnight programme about sex abuse claims surrounding the late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile.

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.

In the wake of the Newsnight Savile row, several senior news managers stepped aside from certain responsibilities while investigations took place.

In an email to staff after Mr Entwistle resigned, Lord Patten said the "priority now is to address the very serious questions that still remain around the original decision not to pursue the initial Newsnight investigation, how last week's story went so horribly wrong and, most importantly, how the BBC's historic culture and behaviour allowed Jimmy Savile to get away with his vile criminal activity".

Restoring trust

Home Secretary Theresa May told Marr it was the right decision for Mr Entwistle to go.

"At the core of question about the Newsnight piece on north Wales is a question about the quality of journalism... I think the BBC has got a job to do to restore that trust."

Theresa May: ''I think it was the right decision that George Entwistle took to resign''

She said two inquiries she announced last week into the abuse claims - one reviewing the Waterhouse Review into the original 1990s claims, and one looking at the police handling of the historic claims as well as fresh allegations - would continue.

Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman said Mr Entwistle had not shown "clear leadership" but there was "such a depth of support and admiration and commitment" for the BBC from its staff and the public.

Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee said BBC journalism was "second to none, it is more trusted than anyone else" but a "bad mistake" had been made with the Newsnight story.

Former culture minister Kim Howells called for the resignations of Lord Patten and the BBC director of news, Helen Boaden.

He told BBC Wales' Sunday Supplement Programme: "Unfortunately there is a culture at the top of the BBC that is vain and out of touch. It's not doing what it should be doing which is supporting and encouraging muscular investigative journalism of the highest quality."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    The BBC has been producing some excellent factual programming in the recent months. This is a blip that they didn't cause based on Tory loyalties and an underlying need to punish someone for the actions of former staff and executives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    The vast majority of the thinking public have NOT lost faith with one of our most revered institutions. Doubtless the hysterically inclined will, until their puppet masters tell them otherwise. I, for one, will not jump on this particularly distasteful bandwagon of condemning a whole organisation for the failure of a dubious few, driven by who-knows what motivation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    All this talk of the BBC being in meltdown etc. is overstated. The Corporation does a good job on the whole, and this "crisis" has been a product partly of poor internal communication and partly of the media being obsessed with itself So many big headlines about a media organisation, - isn't there more important stuff going on out there??

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    It is time for the BBC to have people who have knowledge & experience of how to run a national broadcaster. It is not sufficient to appoint clueless individuals who's only redeeming feature is who rather than what they know. It is time for meritocracy to come to the fore. It is also time to get rid of hangers on and useless halfwits who's only purpose is to draw a salary at taxpayers expense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    I suppose the radical overhaul under this Gov't would be privatisation.

    Now theres a surprise.......

    For all it's faults and it's recent almost daily mail/sky news reporting of late, I love the BBC and the less private/MURDOCH/influenced by MP's it is ....................THE BETTER

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Patten has been in-situ throughout this whole mess. He should be the one resigning.

  • Comment number 69.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    What needs to happen to the BBC is this obsession that they seem to have developed for shallow, rating grabbing shows and Journalism which is ropey to say the least to come to an end. I miss the old days of hard Rottweiler Journalists who were not shackled by PC attitudes. Twitter and Co are not substitutes for hard Journalism, leave shallow Apps and gutter news to the PM and his pals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    Maybe this is a bit off-topic, but the way I'd like the BBC to change is for them to get rid of their obsession with branding & self promotion. Remove ALL on-screen channel ID graphics ("DOGs"), stop talking over closing credits, revert to the name News 24 for the news channel, allow the regional news programmes to have distinct branding like they used to, etc. etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    When a HYS comment is removed for trying to highlight the political leanings of Newsnight 'journalists' , gets pulled, you do wonder.
    I would want to know if any held extreme left or right wing views as we cannot ensure balanced and impartial reporting.
    Just because one happens to be head of the NUJ chapter for the BBC should not stop people knowing.
    The News Dept needs separating and overhauling

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    If the BBc had no been so eager to draw fire from the Saville debacle and also pursue it's propaganda agenda against the Tories & Mrs T then more thought would have been given to the truth of their claims. As it is any high ranking tory of the Thatcher era ought to be in a position to sue for libel, as the slur by the BBC affected them all and by association mrs T.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    The BBC is highly regarded across the globe and must be supported and I am sure most brits think the same. There is no other global news organisation that comes close to the BBC. I live in France and Sarkozy once said he wanted French TV to emulate the BBC. A French relative in the US watches the BBC as she says it is the only trusted news channel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    There should be an opt on the TV licence sow aren't forced to buy this rubbish service if we don't want it. Or scrap the licence all toghter and just pay for the services you want. The guaranteed income they get seems to be making them sloppy

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Whilst we focus on the BBC, let us not forget, the source of this story and not be distracted by looking in the wrong direction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    There has to be a scapegoat. The sleaze goes much deeper in the entertainment industry, with politicians and the rich - they can afford to cover up. So we need a huge public enquiry, that is open and we can trust. We are general public - we pay the BBC licence fee and are entitles to unbiased, "clean" news that we can actually trust. I have to look at alternative net news for the truth nowadays

  • Comment number 60.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Yes, radical overhaul should include advertising to stop them not fleecing licence payers with arrogent attitudes and political undertones.

    Scrap the licence fee and make them compete with other companies...

    Does BBC stand for Biased Broadcasting Company?

  • Comment number 58.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    I wonder how many of these problems are due to the 24/7 news culture. The desire to get the latest 'exclusive' has lead to sloppy journalism and shoddy editorial scrutiny.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    ...The public as a whole have NOT lost their trust in the BBC. They like it just as it is==="

    This may be your view but I don't think it is the majority view.
    Like any organization awash with money they have not earned and unanswerable to the public, they have become detached from reality


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