BBC director general Tim Davie vows to 'get a grip'


Acting director general Tim Davie: "My job now is to get a grip of the situation and take action"

The BBC's acting director general has vowed to "get a grip" following the resignation of George Entwistle over a Newsnight report on child abuse claims.

Tim Davie said he had set up a "clear line of command" in the news division.

The director and deputy director of news have been asked to "step aside" pending an internal review into the way claims about Jimmy Savile were handled.

BBC Northern Ireland's head says he had a role in the decision-making of the Newsnight report but would not resign.

Peter Johnston said he was not reconsidering his position.

Meanwhile, the inquiry into the Newsnight broadcast has identified "unacceptable" failings and said basic journalistic checks were not completed.

A summary of the findings by Ken MacQuarrie, director of BBC Scotland, has been released by the corporation, which said the full report would be issued after the completion of disciplinary proceedings, which will begin immediately.

It added that "there was a different understanding by the key parties about where the responsibility lay for the final editorial sign off for the story on the day".

'Justified and necessary'

The BBC Trust - the corporation's governing body - said Mr MacQuarrie's findings were "very concerning".

"It is clear... that there were serious failures in the normal checks and balances... The measures that Tim Davie has put in place are sensible and appropriate."

A BBC spokesman later confirmed Mr Johnston's involvement "in decisions about the BBC Newsnight report".

He added: "The next stage of this process is now under way. It will, amongst other things, seek to clarify decision-making roles and responsibilities."

Mr Entwistle resigned after eight weeks as director general following the 2 November Newsnight report which led to former Tory treasurer, Lord McAlpine, being wrongly accused of child abuse in north Wales in the 1980s.

The National Audit Office confirmed it would be speaking to the BBC Trust to investigate whether it should conduct a value for money study of the decision to grant him a payout £450,000 - a year's salary.


Extract of Chris Patten's letter to John Whittingdale

PDF download Chris Patten's letter to John Whittingdale[313k]

Most computers will open PDF documents automatically, but you may need Adobe Reader

The BBC Trust said the NAO was "an important ally to the trust in its push to deliver better value for money for licence fee payers. If they chose to look at this we would be happy to co-operate fully".

Earlier, amid criticism from Downing Street of the pay-off, Lord Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, wrote to Commons culture, media and sport committee chairman John Whittingdale, describing the decision as "justified and necessary".

His letter said the sum was what the BBC would have had to pay if the trust had fired Mr Entwistle and that the trust was considering sacking him if he had not volunteered his resignation.

In other developments:

  • In a Commons debate, Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman urged Mr Entwistle to consider giving up half of his severance payment. Downing Street sources said David Cameron believed it was a matter for Mr Entwistle's "conscience" whether to accept it
  • Mr Davie told staff by email on Monday that there would be "no handbrake turn" in implementing work started by Mr Entwistle on "getting rid of anything that gets in the way of delivering the best of British creativity to our audiences"
  • Fran Unsworth, head of newsgathering, and Ceri Thomas, editor of Radio 4's Today programme have been asked to fill the respective roles of director and deputy director of news, for the time being, while, "to address the pressure on the Newsnight team", Karen O'Connor will become acting editor of the programme
  • A journalist involved with the north Wales investigation quit his job at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. BIJ editor Iain Overton had tweeted before broadcast that Newsnight was going to link a senior political figure with paedophilia
  • Former director general Mark Thompson said he was confident the BBC would bounce back as he started his new job as chief executive and president of the New York Times newspaper

Mr Davie was appointed as acting director general on Saturday after Mr Entwistle announced his resignation.

Start Quote

The BBC has made grave mistakes and it must sort them out. But everyone, including us politicians, must keep cool heads and allow that to happen”

End Quote Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman

In his first televised interview since taking the role, Mr Davie told the BBC News channel: "If the public are going to get journalism they trust from the BBC I have to be, as director general, very clear on who is running the news operation and ensuring that journalism we put out passes muster.

"The first decision I have made is to get a grip of that, take action and build trust by putting a clear line of command in.

"Separately, we are going to look at the individual process, and there may be disciplinary action. But I want to be fair to people. I don't subscribe to the view that you should act very quickly in that regard and be unreasonable."

He said Mr Entwistle's pay-off was a matter for the BBC Trust.

Mr Davie told BBC Radio 4's World At One he hoped to talk to Lord McAlpine personally about the Newsnight broadcast.

Ken MacQuarrie's findings were presented to the acting director general on Sunday.

The BBC said it found that neither director of news Helen Boaden nor her deputy Steve Mitchell "had anything at all to do with the failed Newsnight investigation into Lord McAlpine".


  • 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

However, they were in the chain of command at the time that Newsnight shelved an earlier investigation into abuse claims against former BBC presenter Jimmy Savile.

They had removed themselves from making decisions on some areas of BBC News output while a separate inquiry, by former head of Sky News Nick Pollard, was held into that decision.

The BBC said once the Pollard Review reports, Ms Boaden and Mr Mitchell "expect to then return to their positions".

Meanwhile, MP Chris Bryant said there should be one overall inquiry looking into the child abuse scandal and subsequent BBC row rather than nine separate investigations.

The BBC is also looking into the culture and practices at the corporation during Savile's career and its handling of past sexual harassment claims.

Also, inquiries have been set up by the government to look into the way the original investigation into the abuse in Wales was handled and separate inquiries have been launched by the Department of Health and Director of Public Prosecutions.


More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    The writers of the thick of it could not have written a better farce !

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    OK. The BBC messed up, big time. It needs fixing, heads must roll, inquiries must proceed. Now could the BBC recognise that there's a lot of other important news out there which needs coverage? So, time to stop navel-gazing and give us some balanced news, please. Otherwise you're not even doing the basic job I pay my licence fee for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    It would be nice if the situation was solved quickly and the BBC would get back to the news. Quickly solve the problems at the organisation and move on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    reading the comments here reminds me of the kenny everett character "angry of mayfair".

    it is worth my licence fee alone to read these comments. it's like "speak your brains" from the day to day wasn't satire after all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Regardless of what has gone on I do find it disgusting that a payout of £450,000 is made for less than 2 months in any job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    How can we get accountability if we sack everyone in a position to take responsibility
    We should be quizzing them all intensively and if they don't like it they can walk. Gross misconduct should be punished if found
    The whole thing is a massive smoke screen and cover up to turn the whole scandal into another media story
    Those guilty of crimes will feel a little more secure today

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Trust in the BBC ? That's a laugh. It's a state propaganda machine. Always has been. The paedophile scandal has only made things even worse

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    The BBC is a great British institution, but the more I read the more I think it's become bloated and overly bureaucratic. Director of News / Deputy Director / Head of Newsgathering / Director off BBC Scotland. It's no wonder no-one is really sure where the cock-ups occurred

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Seems the BBC is almost like a masonic lodge with a club tie mentality.
    Everything will remain as is unless there is a true independent review, which oif course will not happen, due to the mass incompetence which any review would find.
    It is always the same when faceless grey suits run the show.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Well yes someone at the BBC dropped a b*****k , but i dont think it calls for the amount of sword falling we have seen. I have seen plenty of politico's do worse and they are still hanging on for all they are worth, BTW the severence package is a serious mistake , i would make a serious b***s up at work if i thought i would get that sort of golden goodbye

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    News Int & now the BBC – seems to be more of a culture than just a few errors. Maybe those journalists and editors lack the moral guidance’s that their predecessors had.

    You can see the same in banking – once risk adverse but now positive gamblers..

    Just a culture change

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    The Beeb has dumbed down too far.
    I can watch what I want [f1] on Sky. So next year I wont be buying a license. I have no doubt they'll pick up that I have televisions at home and no doubt they'll take me to court to fine me. Just exactly how do I get out of paying the Beeb's license fee - because starving them of cash might make them come to their senses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    May I suggest they bring back Mr Pastry and put him in charge. Oh, I see, they already have...

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    All the BBC seems to get a grip on is its shoelaces as it constantly tried to pull itself up by them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Hmm, a comments section. The BBC didn't learn that lesson then?

    Seriously, I'm glad you're being open, but to be so open as to let your own website fall victim to political ideology and such destructive debates?

    Suggestion: Shut up and get on with it; take down the live feed, we don't need the running commentary and get to work fixing the problems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Thanks to the beeb i learnt a new word today. Recused. I am not sure if it becomes before or after stepping aside. Can anyone help?

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    #16 #17

    Yes. When you read the Daily Telegraph you know you're getting right of centre of views and with the Guardian you're getting the left

    The BBC is a public service broadcaster with no choice about paying the licence fee if you have a TV. The BBC MUST get its act together, be impartial and demonstrate that it has absolutely no political bias This is necessary for its domestic and intl image

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    @ 15.philjer
    "1.3 million? What currency s that? It was £450,000"

    The total benefits package he will get has been disclosed as £1.3m (£450,000 of which is just a nice little payoff for 2 months attendance, the rest no doubt pension and other goodies).

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    All the BBC needed to do was employ the same PR as this incompetent govt then they could have used the same excuses: over the 34 U Turns, and the fiascoes of the West Coast, Immigration numbers, Budget omnishambles, plebgate, LOL texts....etc etc. Then they could have turned this negativity into mendacity as this govt keep getting away with! Oops forgot BBC don't have Press on their side.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Write Out 3 Letters

    1. blame your predecessor - you will likely to get away with this.

    2. blame the market - just about plausible.

    3. write out three letters and take a massive pay off.

    BBC survival - 54 days.

    Above all don't get caught holding the baby - do this by random decision making. You are likely to be right 50% of the time which is actually very good.


Page 30 of 33


More UK stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.