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

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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 107.

    Journalists, politicians and the police.

    Are these now the three most untrustworthy professions in our modern society?

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    The Tories parachuted their own guy in to the BBC to become head, and he screwed up. Big time.

    And got rewarded with a £450,000 payoff. Much like how the government regard bankers - reward them for failure, at our expense.


  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    The payment of 1 years’ salary after 54 day in the office of DG may be large but Entwistle has had 23years BBC service. What would his package had been if he had had to leave prior to his appointment?

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    Bored ....... ! Change the channel

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    While the BBC goes into a paroxysm of navel gazing and the knitters at the guillotine revel as heads roll, has everyone forgotten that this started because young men were subjected to appalling abuse by someone, perhaps several rich, powerful and well-connected men in North Wales?
    And had the misidentified man been 'Joe Soap' rather than a Tory grandee how many heads would still be in place?

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    It was, once, a matter of honour for those with whom the buck stopped, to fall upon their swords. Now, they fall upon their fat compensation packages. Comfortable - for sure. Honourable - "you cannot be serious".
    I trust Mr Davie has his exit covered, but wish him well nonetheless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.


    You can imagine the office gossip going on at the Beeb - to a certain extent they'll think the world revolves around them and hence the prominence given to it in the news !

    Not a good start from the stand in DG - management bingo speak (stepping aside etc) is not the way to calm fears.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Enough! This isn't a 'crisis' its a journalistic error compounded by management error but THAT IS IT. Suez was a crisis, the Cuban blockade was a crisis. This is sheer hysterics by a bunch of BBC employees - get a grip - and get on with what you are supposed to be doing, reporting NEWS... and as for Mr Patten & the Trust - grow some and start defending the our BBC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    So how much will this cost the licence payers. Not many working people get good pay offs when they leave there employment, some don't even get a thank you, but hey the plebs (public) will pay it they are to stupid to do other. Time we stood by our constitution (we have one) and MPs make laws which are legal and agreed by the people, no consent no law and watch your greed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    I think this is an absolute disgrace paying a person $450K for resigning, Its an insult to the license payers paying someone that has no clue whats happening in his own organisation and he resigns and gets a years salary for doing so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    First thing he needs to do is acknowledge that the Entwistle payment is a travesty, and set about

    a - reversing it


    b - going after the people that agreed to it

    He'll no doubt claim it's outside his remit, but it can't be.

    If he fails to deal with it, the BBC will forfeit what little remains of its moral high ground and tattered reputation.

    This isn't going to go away.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    It is absolutely appalling that this is the major news Item on the BBC. Two managers, probably unknown to most people outside of the journalist world get suspended and news 24 goes into complete melt down.... Do you know what? I don't care, today a British Soldier was killed on active duty in Afghanistan and we are subjected to this self flagellating rubbish.........

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    Get a grip? he wants to get a tie and smarten himself up a but. I don't think "dressing down" does much for the current situation. For "standing aside" read suspended on full pay or "gardening leave". The "new BBC should say it as it is - less mealy-mouthed flannel and euphemisms

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    The beeb are going to get a grip, does this mean a lighting technician will become the next DG.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    A few things about this debacle:
    - why is Cameron poking his nose into the BBC at all?! What Entwistle is paid has NOTHING to do with him and everything to do with the BBC Trust/Chris Patten.
    - the Murdoch media are behaving disgracefully over this as usual! ie Sky, the Times, the Sun etc.
    - There is NO WAY Newsnight will be dropped, as suggested by the Sunday Times.
    On your bike Murdoch!

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Obviously there was a balls up at the BBC, they were afraid of being criticised again but were too quick to put out the allegations that they didn't properly research it. HOWEVER, there are many agencies who have failed the victims, while the media are focussing their witch-hunt on the BBC there is little focus on the perpetrators of this disgusting abuse & those who covered it up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Not sure what is worse; Entwhistle's pay off or MPs telling him he should pay it back, and that it was 'hard to justify' or 'a matter of conscience'.

    Does the phrase 'pot kettle black' mean anything to you clowns?

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Simple solution, let all the BBC employees have the same employment benifits as the top Directors,
    I am sure that if they did that they would not too quick to give each other theses great payoffs
    How about Making it Law then the government would not have to pretend to be so appalled about it

    any support?.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    Oh dear... the new DG speaks marketeese :

    'delivering the best of British creativity to our audiences' .

    And still the ridiculous ohrase 'stepping aside' too.

    Can we have someone who speaks plainly?

    Because its only someone sensible and clear headed that can sort the mess out.

  • Comment number 88.

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


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