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 95.

    It is known that we must go ahead making a great progress. If you will not be progressive, you are able to sink the best your interest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    This is so wrong and a storm in a tea cup but exposes one of this countries best organisations to ridicule

    Theresa May is so out of order and I have less respect for her today
    Lord Patten Please say we have all got this way out of proportion. Be a leader Sir
    George Entwistle Falling on your sword is at best side stepping your responsibilities. Clean it up and move on.
    Lord McAlpine. Move this on

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    84. Colchie
    A very good point indeed

    Yes the beeb should be overhauled. Starting with the removal of the licence fee. But if Whitehall get involved, they will no doubt place their own stooge, probably still wearing the ole eton tie.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Can anyone of this HYS who mark me down give me a rational explanation as to why we HAVE to pay for what is a commercial broadcasting organization?
    Why in a supposedly free society we have no CHOICE on whether we pay for the bbc else be branded a criminal?
    How would you feel if you HAD to pay for SKY whether you wanted it or not?

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    People criticise Entwistle for not having his finger on this particular pulse. I agree he should have delegated someone to watch it closely. But the very last thing you want is an autocrat in charge watching what's in everyone's intray the whole time. Nothing would move and the BBC would output the top guy's view of what the public want. Murdoch's a bit like this. It isn't wanted. Nor is Patten.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    The Newsnight programme did NOT mention names. The press did. Therefore ALL newspaper editors should resign. And Patten should go also, under Entwhistle's logic, as he is his boss!
    Stupid! The BBC get slammed for pulling the Savile Newsnight, and now get slammed for not pulling the latest one, in which no names were mentioned.
    Twisted world or what?

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    Despite all its flaws and failures, I still believe the BBC remains the best broadcasting organistaion in the world. Have you actually watched American television????

  • Comment number 88.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    The argument about the BBC being good or no good is irrelevant - in this day and age there can be no justification for a forced funding of ANY television/radio corporation.

    Simply, if you feel the BBC is good then YOU pay for it.

    Personally I feel it is unethical and outrageous that people in 2012 cannot decide for themselves if they want to fund this unit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    Welcome to soviet united kingdom of Europe Where freedom of speech not only costs you but it's their freedom of speech. What a joke. I got sensored for questioning the establishment of their propaganda puppet fall out guy the bbc. The propaganda isn't even subtle anymore.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    The BBC "incorrectly ?" name a tory backer as an abuser The next thing we will hear is the tories calling for the BBC to be closed. Be careful Cameron, the british public love the BBC and would never forgive your party if you break it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Hilarious for MPs to demand a radical overhaul of the BBC; how about a radical overhaul of Parliament first?

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    Big danger is that this storm (bigger than a teacup but needs to be seen in perspective) will be used by Murdoch and the Tories to undermine the BBC when it is least able to defend itself. Certainly it needs much improvement in its management structure and processes but I strongly believe that it's a much needed institution, we can't let all broadcasting be at the mercy of the marketplace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    This shambles can only be sorted out by establishing professional management at all levels. Selling large parts of it to Sky may be the only way to do this in the short term, and would have the added benefit of removing the left wing bias.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    As No.21 said, the real issue here is the abusers are once again slipping out of sight thanks to this furore.

    This situation has strong echos of the "Sexed Up Evidence" report affair in the run up to the 03 Gulf War. Again the BBC is being attacked as a whole for a single issue. I think we all remember what hindsight has taught us from that affair, I hope memories are not too short elsewhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    The BBC lost it a previous Director General for running a story that was true but the Government didn't like. The only reform it needs is to stand up for itself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    In my younger days, I thought the BBC was fantastic. I'm now in my forties and now I believe them to be so corrupt that I can't trust them to tell the simple truth in a simple and unbiased way. I won't be renewing my license next year. They bully you into believing you need one but you don't if don't watch or record live broadcasts. I'll support you Beeb if you get back to basics. #norespect

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    When the Newsnight saga has claimed its scalps, what is the future of BBC investigative journalism?

    SUGGESTION: where evidence is significant, but circumstantial, the story SHOULD CARRY A "HEALTH WARNING".

    BBC: Please treat your audience as intelligent and capable of forming its own view, You must NOT pretend to be a font of "THE CUT AND DRIED TRUTH"

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    The BBC might have some structural and identity problems......but compared to what goes on with parliament, MPs and the rest of those on the political gravy still has a lot going for it.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    I am sure George Entwistle is a thoroughly decent man but you need to be street wise as well. A quick call to the eidtor of Newsnight to say 'anything about child abuse needs to be signed off by me' and he might still have been in the job.


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