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 167.

    Just now

    For starters , get rid if the lefties in the BBC and then Patten.
    lefties, Patten (conservative) what about some one from the middle?

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.


  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    160. teddy555
    For starters , get rid if the lefties in the BBC and then Patten.
    That is your response to everything, isn't it? On a more mature note: It is good for the BBC to move on. I am more interested in the actual investigation on the child abuse. What's the progress there and will there be some arrests soon?

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.


    'No tie for an interview like this?'

    Yeah because the DG's choice of neckwear (or lack thereof) is the issue of vital importance here.

    I suspect that Mr Entwistle has agreed a compromise agreement with the BBC Trust rather than simply resigning. You have to realise that the forme DG was with the BBC for 23 years and from that point of view it may not seem so unreasonable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    Yet again our out of touch judiciary put the rights of a foreign terroist before the security of the British public. These people have lost sight of justice. As for Fitzgerald QC, what a sanctimonous hypocrite.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    Well he could start by reinstating important national and international news, which is what we expect from BBC News. The BBC talking endlessly about itself is a distraction of which I'm becoming tired.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    I agree a £450k 12 months payoff for two months work is as ludicrous as the payoffs and bonuses received by sundry Bankers, whose businesses are also, of course, propped up by my money.

    Having said that, I will continue to watch BBC and not subscribe to Sky, and not buy the majority of UK newspapers, but I sure hope we see some value from the Levison Enquiry (also conducted using my money)

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    For starters , get rid if the lefties in the BBC and then Patten.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    So the BBC got a story wrong and did not report about the misdeeds of a former employee now dead. So what were the newspapers that are now calling for the breakup of the BBC doing while all this was going on? Ah yes! They were routinely making stuff up and hacking the 'phone calls of a murdered schoolgirl. Like the politicians who's dogma says “privatise the BBC”, they are beneath contempt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    I agree with annieavatar 135

    Deliberately muddying waters & to try & push proper issue of child sex abuse back under the carpet.

    An avalanche of confusion & non news deliberately contrived to muddle everyone into thinking resignations & other rubbish subjects are more important than organised sexual abuse of orphan children in North Wales

    Lets get back to reality, shall we??

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    Funny Harriet harmen placed above our own pm .

    Shows what the BBC deems important .

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    There is something fishy about the BBC taking full blame for what other people put on the internet.
    And what happened to the Sir Peter Morrison story that was broken by the Daily Mail?
    Having said that I don't think the BBC should be witch-hunting George Entwistle.
    Yes it should get a grip and stop protecting ridiculously wealthy people whether they are dead or alive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    No tie for an interview like this? And, to boot, he doesn't know the difference between singular and plural. 'There was some journalistic errors,' he says. Indeed. It's all very reassuring.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    I pay £12+ a month to watch the BBC. Over the year I proberly watch 24-36hrs worth of tv broadcast from them. I dont have Skyite either, just freeviiew. Its about time they moved out of the 1900s and into the 21st century and went PPV. Say £0.10p per hr but if you watch the crap they put on mon-sun between 1700-2100 then £25 per hr.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    How about some serious investigative journalism into who abused these children? Surely under the Freedom of Information Act there must be evidence.There are some people out there who should know what exactly is going on and there must be no hiding place for those who abuse and hurt young children. An independent enquiry can be used as a cover up. The parents of all children in the UK need action.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    As far as I can see this is a crisis for the BBC because lawyers and the Daily Mail say it is and the BBC believed them.

    If they dropped all is tomorow and focused on the victims I think most of us would be happy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    Having worked in Corporate HR I can confirm it would be extraordinary to compensate a Corporate CEO who had failed in their oversight role. He already had a fruity 6m notice package, and in UK law, unless gross misconduct (tbc!) he is entitled to 6m money in lieu of salary. But to double it (plus a other pension deal - will we hear?) it is the Old Pals Act. An injunction would ensure co-operation!

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    How's about bumping this off your top stories now and reporting some real news? The BBC doesn't half seem to have an over-inflated view of self importance. I'm bored of further clarification of how incompetent your board is.

    Your board has shown itself up to be out of touch with the people they represent (ie the fee paying general public) just the same as the government has in recent times.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    Whether Mr Entwistle's payout was too high is not an important issue and for MP's to waste their time discussing it is disgraceful. However, it confirms what may of us think about many politicians - that they are posturing, attention seeking and largely pointless, perfectly exemplified by the extremely silly Philip Davies whose vacuous outbursts seem to come thick and fast. Please keep quiet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.



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