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 175.

    Could we please start a 'hands of our BBC' petition similar to the one I signed on behalf of Virgin Rail.


    Agree - the hands of the BBC are all over this mess

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    "thorough radical structural overhaul"

    thorough _ MUST include BBC Trust = cannot be conducted or supervised by them

    radical _ must not rely on present hierarchical system NOR THE PRESENT HIERARCHY!

    structural _ MUST INCLUDE unacceptably convoluted &obstructive BBC complaints system

    Get back to the BBC Charter _ Follow it IMPLICITLY
    and throw out Thompson's 'profit regime' FROM TODAY!

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    Lord Patten has been asleep at the wheel but doesn't resign, Bank of England's King failed to monitor the UK's banks but keeps his position. The BBC has long been crowded with family names, e.g. Dimbleby etc. It's who you know, you know ! The BBC is normally a job for life - true of most institutions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    This is a good opportunity to privatise the BBC and remove the invidious licence fee. The concept of a national broadcasting service in the 21st century is an anachronism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    Radical overhaul at the BBC?

    A few resignations are need first including Patton's. We don't want the incompetents simply recycled amongst the top jobs.

    Newsnight is on BBC2 and yet I don't see a rush to return the 'channel of the year award' so regularly trumpeted before programmes....

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    Could we please start a 'hands of our BBC' petition similar to the one I signed on behalf of Virgin Rail.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    This should allow the politicians to get the BBC operating the way they want. i.e. everything we say is truth. Everything people who disagree with us say is a lie.

    The BBC needs to get a backbone and tell the politicians to xxxx off. Also start interviewing them with a bit more aggression - expose their lies and hypocrisy. Dig deep guys. You know these people are liars, cheats, expense fiddlers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    ...why does it appear that the news division programmes seem to like to get one up on each other so much (a divided news division per se)? It seems to me there is a lot of sniping/oneupmanship which leads to contradiction & portrays the BBC poorly. 3rd employees or contractors - all public funded organisations should expect employees to be squeaky clean & whiter than white when exposing others!

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    Instead of a 'radical overhaul' of what remains one of the greatest news-gathering organisations in the world, perhaps instead it's worth disciplining and training the small number of journalists involved in these two cases. No media in the world, however diligent, is able to avoid occasionally publishing something that is incorrect, in rare instances disastrously so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    Increasingly the perception of the BBC is that it's a mouthpiece for the British govt, iterating the establishment line, which does not vary greatly regardless of which colour holds the reins (rendering accusations of party political bias moot).
    Auntie needs to get out of bed with the political elite & do what it hasn't done consistently for years; investigate news, not just repeat it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    Anybody born pre 80's seem to be the only one perputating this left vs right red vs blue myth. My generation has no idea what ur slavering on about and neither do we care. We have a homogenized political class a homogenized political system and the media is squashed in there and this is but another attempt to neuter it further simple as. As long we we can protect the internet we have some hope.

  • Comment number 163.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    Once upon a time, news channels reported news. Crime investigation was left to the Police. Indeed, discovery of possible criminal activity should have been reported in the first place to the Police. Instead of which, the BBC seems to have started to think that is should be the judge and jury in such matters. Just hope those at the top will pay for the damage. Time it went, no licence fee..heaven!

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    Perhaps if the BBC concentrated on its journalism rather than Quasi political body it has become it wouldn't end up being the news or with quite so many enemies.

  • Comment number 160.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    GE falling on his sword is the start of a slippery slope. He may not have been the best DG so far, but how do we know? he's only just got his chair warm! He has been unfairly hounded out mainly because of stuff that predated him. The post of DG is now a poison chalice that no one will want. Will the hyenas now force the stand-in to resign when someone digs up some more trash in 2 days time?

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    The BBC needs a radical rethink. It's remit and budget should be reduced, the licence fee (it's the least fair of taxes) should go and it should be funded from general taxation. It should be primarily a news and information service. Most of of it's current "light" entertainment offering are puerile and seem to be designed to keep it's vast pool of "talent" emlpoyed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    Are there any other members of the BBC Trust or is Patten the only one with the guts to get in front of the camera and explain themselves?

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    126. There won't be if the Beeb goes. The Beeb is one of the only CONSISTENTLY free channels.

    125. And what will you blame it on? Natural geophysical change and God's wrath?

    119. I think, rather than political bias (in either direction), this is closer to the truth, and your point warrants further examination.


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