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.

ABUSE INQUIRIES

  • 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
    +2

    Comment number 755.

    a true deep comparison of staffing requirements,compareing news stations like sky cnn of management needs to run the company is needed this is a civil service and it looks so top heavy it would sink in water does it need that manager? scary stuff but in these times when we pay the licence fee totaly answerable to the people a run down of costings made public

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 754.

    The BBC have had this coming for a long time. The Panorama story on so called racism in Ukraine is a fine example of their shoddy and vindictive journalism. Nowadays you have to watch Russia Today to find out what is going on in the world (Bahraine and the current war in Libya). The fact that the BBC's money is guaranteed may be big factor in their lawlessness.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 753.

    @740.West SussexVillan.

    Re "Editors' Picks"
    I think it's perfectly reasonable not to expect any.You can't be expected to choose comments that are being made about yourself.
    To be fair,at least they gave us a forum to make comments on it.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 752.

    @744. Jonok

    All the heat seems to have shifted from the real story which is
    institutional child abuse, we want the truth not a smokescreen
    witch hunt against the BBC for airing concerns over a victims
    story.

    --

    If you want the truth then you should wait for the results of the police investigations and the various enquires. If the BBC had done that they wouldn't be in this mess.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 751.

    Its a question of trust. Can we trust a BBC that gave us Hutton, Russel Brand, tax fiddling, Saville and now this? Its not external, political threats that have gotten the Beeb into this state but its own internal incompetence, but still they feel we should trust them. Well I dont anymore but I still have to pay the licence tax which funds them however poor their output becomes.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 750.

    Is it "damned if you do and damned if you don't" when it comes to reporting these allegations? Or is it that when an ex BBC DJ was at fault the investigation was dropped but when it was an ex Tory MP they couldn't get the accusations on air fast enough?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 749.

    #732
    Can't remember any programmes questioning whether Iraq had any WMDs.
    -----------
    Gilligan BBC Campbell ..........now take these crayons and see if you can join the dots

    Blue Fog
    Personally, I'm wary of everything I read in the media regardless of who owns it.
    ----
    Course you are Magi...

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 748.

    Lord Patten says he knew of the contents of the broadcast but could not interrogate managers as it would seem like interference. But he could have rung Entwhistle and asked him if he knew this. This would have been common sense not interference.
    Lord Patten should go - he is not asking the questions anyone with common sense should ask in his position.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 747.

    I support the indepedence of the BBC.

    Well worth the licence fee.

    Yes its a bad mistake, but lets get back to the original investigation of Jimmy Savill and any other hanger-ons. This is turning in to a diversion from the original query.

    Free BBC = Free Speach

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 746.

    741. David
    The reason the Newsnight story was not researched properly was because as soon as the mention of a "senior Conservative Minister in the Thatcher Government" being involved Newsnight staff fell over themselves in the hurry to vent their spite against the Conservative Party.
    ///////
    What, just like you are in hurry to vent your spite against the BBC? That's disgraceful!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 745.

    741.David
    2 Minutes ago

    Totally agree !

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 744.

    All the heat seems to have shifted from the real story which is
    institutional child abuse, we want the truth not a smokescreen
    witch hunt against the BBC for airing concerns over a victims
    story.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 743.

    I'd like to echo 728 Ackwern's words. The BBC despite tory comments to the contrary provides well respected commentary on politics and the news. No radical overhaul is needed. What is needed is for the BBC simply to get on with the job of being the most 'respected' public broadcaster in tne world. These recent events are the result of the BBC following the pack rather than setting trends.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 742.

    Surely the new DG simply has to be an Etonian.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 741.

    The reason the Newsnight story was not researched properly was because as soon as the mention of a "senior Conservative Minister in the Thatcher Government" being involved Newsnight staff fell over themselves in the hurry to vent their spite against the Conservative Party. In this case it ended up with the biter being bitten...

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 740.

    I notice that despite there being over 700 comments on this forum now there are no ‘Editors’ Picks’.

    Are they too scared to make a decision in case it’s their last, or have they all honourably resigned?

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 739.

    This story is the perfect example of how this country has gone down the toilet

    Police investigate the crime
    Police investigate the police
    Independent inquiry investigate police & the crime
    The media & the internet investigate inquiry's & police
    Independent inquiry investigates media

    All this before someone even gets the chance to defend themselves. So much for innocent until proven guilty

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 738.

    Time we were given a choice of whether to pay for this or not. The BBC should be made to stand on its own 2 feet and compete with the rest. They should have no problem if they are as good as they think they are.
    Compulsory licence fee is wrong and should be banned

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 737.

    Danmed if you don't (run a Newsnight story about allegations made about the late Jimmy Savile) and damned if you do (run a Newsnight story about allegations made by a fellow who apparently 'made a mistake' and thinks that makes it all fine...), poor DG! Good, though, that there's SOME honour around, well done Entwistle, for accepting responsibility for subordinates' perceived mistakes.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 736.

    Why are Paton's political affiliations not being mentioned, especially as part of the same Thatcher government as McAlpine?! Given the criticism he has made that concerns both the Conservative party and McAlpine it is so important a connection that anybody with integrity would have mentioned their partisan interest in the whole business? If they'd both been in the BBC we'd have heard endlessly.

 

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