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.


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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.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Armando Giovanni Iannucci O.B.E. is the very man for the job of DG.

    and the first thing he should do is have a "speak your brains" digital channel, for you guys to let off steam.

    now that would be worth doubling the license fee for alone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    The Crisis is that the BBC are now on a hysterical cannibalistic feeding frenzy. Beating themselves up and raving in an angst ridden firestorm. Getting a grip means the acting DG and editor in chief.. £450 k/pa etc taking control of HIS newsroom and journalists and begin reporting other stories Abu Quatardar etc..

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Can I suggest everyone calms down a little? Newsnight made a huge blunder but the reaction has been totally hysterical. People died today... People were diagnosed with cancer... Politicians and media commentators should perhaps take a moment out to get over themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    I don't doubt the BBC will begin to get more of a grip.

    A firm Oxbridge handshake with the establishment!

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    I wonder what sort of severance package Helen & Steve are getting. They will probably come back as free lance consultants…

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    Despite the best endeavours of the BBC's front line staff their management steadfastly remains incompetent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    To any asking why they pay for a TV license: The license fee doesn't just fund the BBC. It contributes to all telecommunications infrastructure in the country.

    It also helps pay for this very website.

    To those saying to shut the BBC down: If you hate it so much, why are you using the BBC website? Go start an e-petition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    The BBC are not perfect, but is a 100 times better than anything you will get from a national broadcaster in any other country. Also the license is dirt cheap. Happy to pay my licence, fantastic radio, decent TV and not bad internet news. Better than paying rip off prices to rubbish broadcasters like sky etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    The BBC is great but the news reporters are far too polite to lying politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    Just now
    "Really bored of people bad-mouthing the BBC when the rest of the world regards it as such a fine broadcaster. Are all those people wrong? Are all the non-public-funded broadcasters so great? Thought not. Give them a chance".

    ..... Are all those people abroad paying the BBC TV Licence? No? Well we do and we have every right to criticise if we want.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    If Newsnight is the BBC's worst, its still a million times better than ITV. So instead of hounding the BBC for supposedly 1 error, shouldn't we use our energies on the other channels who are guilty of showing sub standard programmes day in day out. The £450K is nothing compared to the millions that will be spent re:Savile investigation which we all have to pay for, and which will achieve nothing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    What hope when they cant even sack the person responsible. Paton should also go, he has left a trail of devastation where ever he goes. Restructuring the police in Northern Ireland has cost a billion and still they are disarray.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    suprisingly all the comments really criticising the BBC properly with their involvement in a cover up are being removed, why is that exactly.
    What about the victims of child abuse, who is speaking for their rights?

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    The company head who should resign is the head of twitter where the defamation and naming happened.

    Also those who gave Savile honours - still in jobs?

    And Thatcher spent a lot of time with Savile - any comment from her? Did the secret service check him up?

    Hutton Report ignored the facts that there no WMD and that the Government and others did not tell the truth. Blair arrested?


  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    Just shows how degraded and plastic this nation has become that Twittering fools are being taken so seriously and causing havoc just by mischiefmaking of sad people with nothing to do with their lives.

    Everyone needs to calm down, refuse to be affected by Twitter idiots and get back to proper down to earth journalism.

    Love the BBC but it needs to look at itself and get back to basics.

  • Comment number 72.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Justin Welby for the new DG? Old Etonian for a start and experience of the oil industry (really tricky stuff there). Probably more relevant experience than for the job that he's been offered.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Its quite easy to sort this. Keep the folks who consistently make the wrong decisions in place, take their decisions to somebody who reverses their recommendations & implements that. Spot on every time

    All better than this side-shuffle and set-aside dancing & nobody would be taking big cheques and singing Thats the way I like it A-ha A-ha

    And no more BBC endlessly reporting about the BBC. Nice

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Best thing that could happen is to bring in a 'real manager' from outside the BBC who has run a successful profitable business and establish an organisation that reflects the real business world. Constant internal promotions and perpetuating the ' jobs for the boys' culture has got the BBC to where it is today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Really bored of people bad-mouthing the BBC when the rest of the world regards it as such a fine broadcaster. Are all those people wrong? Are all the non-public-funded broadcasters so great? Thought not. Give them a chance.

    Also:are none of those people accusing the BBC of political bias one way or the other not struck by the irony that they surely can't be biased to both left and right wing?


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