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 435.

    As soon as the Tories got into power it was obvious that they would target the BBC, using whatever excuse becomes available. The BBC reports are objective and balanced. It's the Government that is not. Entwhistle should have resigned, due to overcompensating for the failure to run the JS story, but that's and end to it. Let's concentrate on finding peidophiles, not a BBC witchhunt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 434.

    420 study
    could not agree more,one powerful body policing the whole of the media

  • rate this

    Comment number 433.

    Just marked down a pro BBC comment, Guess what, it shot up two points.
    They just can't help themselves trying to control events

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    Twice a day we are blessed with BBC News on our little American radio. These are probably the best news broadcasts we get to listen to all day. After a lifetime of murder and mayhem stories, society gossip and which film idol is sleeping with whose wife "news", I would gladly pay for what BBC has to offer UK. Please do not burn down the whole barn just because one window is sagging.

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    @ 390 Richard H,

    Yes you are right, the argument has been won in favour of privatisation..

    Western world's privatized economic systems are doing fantastic aren't they... No national debt's, no poverty, housing for all, pension funds, a media that tells facts for facts sake.... oh wait.

    What we need is an argument, not smokescreen lies and 'for profit sharks' dictating the whole debate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    The beeb isn't overtly biased, it does it covertly, by the pictures and quotes it uses, the stories it headlines, the views it choses to promote, the people it employs and what it allows people to discuss.
    It is quite funny sometimes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    Leftist hypocrisy abounds on the HYS.
    They can dish it out out but cannot take it,
    If Sky or any other broadcaster had tried to smear a political party because of bias in their organisation, they would have been up in arms

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    The long and proud record of the BBC as a beacon of truth and force for good in the world, for best part of a century, speaks for itself. Serious criticisms are rightly due, but let's have some context.

    To those who would close it down, I am absolutely incredulous; I'm a Tory but, like others, am immensely proud of the BBC as an institution. What would you have us do, watch rot like Fox News?

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    396. Esherrob
    After the Savile situation and the Ross, Brand fiasco, is it time we started to ask if the BBC is fit for purpose
    Sounds like a below average weekend at the News of the World...

    Dont start pretending that the BBC has major editorial issues because it hasn't.

    This situation is being exploited by right wing lobbyists with agendas.

    What's Cameron's view on this - Lol?

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    The license fee seems so strange to me.

    I understand I pay income tax to contribute towards society and my own health (in theory). I understand I pay council tax to contribute towards the maintenance of where I live.

    Why do I pay for the BBC if I could do without its output?

    At very least introduce adverts and reduce the license fee.

    License fee = outdated

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    The BBC is not perfect - it is run by humans with human frailties after all, but it is the best we have, and I'll stick with it as it is thank-you very much. There's no need for a root and branch reform, because if we do we risk throwing the baby out with the bath-water, and the BBC is far too precious for that to happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    It's been apparent to me for a longtime now that the news at the BBC is sensationalist often with very little truth in it, it blatantly miss represents the public and sectors of society in general. Hence why I take what it has to say with a pinch of salt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    SHOCK...celebrities take advantage of young girls who fawn on them
    SHOCK...public school boys grow up having pederast tendencies

    We have all known these things as long as I can remember..more than 60 years for me. Time to stop all this holier than thou sensationalist crap. Just make the police do their job and uphold the laws we already have and all will be taken care of.

  • Comment number 422.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 421.

    Patten should resign immediately, he and his cronies selected this wet rag of a man to do a job far beyond his ability
    As for Patten he is a failed politician who has since leaving politics lived off the state through the jobs for the boys system, he of course also has his daily fee from the lords and a massive bunch of pensions paid for by real people who are struggling to survive

  • rate this

    Comment number 420.

    One of the major problems is that the BBC is not regulated by Ofcom or any other body but regulates itself. It has consistantly failed to do this and there appears to be a culture within the BBC where they do not recognise their own bias or faults. The BBC needs to have proper external regulation to keep it in check.

  • rate this

    Comment number 419.

    The whole debacle hints at something a lot bigger than a single Tory MP from the 70's. I am now highly suspicious.

    We need an independent enquiry run by somebody from a different country with no connection to the British establishment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 418.

    Greg Dyke could help here as he understands the BBC and is now distant enough from his previous BBC experience to review it coldly He could become DG again or become a trust member who could coach Mr Entwistle helping him review BBC for the future. BBC needs creative talent commercial savvy, a futurist, political savvy and stability. Hard to find in one person but a team of old and new can do this

  • rate this

    Comment number 417.

    I do not profess to know all the facts about this latest Newsnight incident, but it appears to me that the BBC is dammed if it does broadcast and dammed if it does not. As far as I can tell the televised report did not name the noble lord; rather it was others on a different media forum, so why has the DG resigned. Something does not smell right!

  • rate this

    Comment number 416.

    366 - Actually you are completely and utterly wrong. If anything, there used to be accusations that the Murdoch press would to go too far in exposing abusers and placed them at risk of vigilantes. This might be a good or bad thing depending on what you think. But don't tarnish this debate with such absolute partisan rubbish.


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