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]

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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 187.

    The BBC has one thing that puts it above any other broadcasting organisation, and something any journalist holds as the ultimate goal.


    Let’s not lose it

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    Entwistle's failings were omissions - what he failed to do and responsibilites he ducked; not mistakes that damaged the BBC. Encouraged by Patten, his premature reaction was to negotiate a generous payoff and scoot, instead of appealing for a chance to help put things right. A bad mistake for both of them giving the lie to the claim that he/they acted honourably. A precedent has been set.

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    Mark my words: This scandal about loosely-networked high-placed paedophiles will disappear once again into a fog of obfuscation, just like it did in 1993 (See: Angelsea v Observer Newspaper Group), 1989 (See: Scallywag magazine and Simon Regan) and many other times. The journalists involved here really need to get a grip on this or it will slip through their fingers like countless times before.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    1. DG pay off is right; based on expediency to move on - slimy MP's object because it plays well to the crowd
    2. side-stepping should be roled into Strictly next week - then we will all understand the current BBC craze - and get paid for it.
    3.Getting a grip - bring in Firestone or Shirley Temple
    4.Dep DG looks so young he may need gripe rather than grip posture.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    If this is what the BBC is spending my license fee money then I'm not paying it anymore !!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    So that's 75000 plus 450000 for two months work - right? = 525000 = > 3.15 million per annum. I was very pleased that Chris Patten resolved to cut the DG's salary to a more moderate level when he took office. Does this mean he has failed now that the 'cut' turns out to be a multiplication times 4? Is that a proper reason for resigning? But wait - how much would Patten's resignation cost?

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    Somehow the sight of Tim Davie with his shirt hanging open, half shaved, and clutching his coffee carton doesn't exactly fill one with confidence that this is the man to repair the BBC. Why were those responsible for the debacle allowed to "Stand aside "? Why were they not sacked ? Their actions were grossly incompetent and could surely be construed as misconduct in public office.

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    I am quite certain that everyone in UK is utterly astonished that the salary of £145,000 was ever awarded in the first place, and now the same sum paid for resigning, not doing any work at all??

    Lets get back to the real issue of organised child sex abuse in North Wales and the rooting out, naming of the culprits. That is the real subject that everyone in UK wants answers to. So where is it??

  • Comment number 179.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    If I were to resign from a job, the most I could expect is being paid up to the day I left, or one month if I worked my notice.

    Whoever agreed an employment contract which allows someone to RESIGN and be paid for a year, needs their own employment looked at.

    Oh...sorry... I forgot....none of this matters, as it is public/taxpayers/licencepayers money, so therefore not "real".

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    A group of children get abused by a Celebrity and not much happens.

    But Newsnight broadcast a poorly researched story and all hell is let loose.

    Err there's something wrong there. Both Incidents are serious, both should promote a strong reaction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    Amazon uk is based in Lichtenstein - wacky, but true, apparently.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    I cannot understand why let this story act as a smoke screen. Elsewhere on the BBC tonight "Mr Jillings said his report was not published because council insurers felt it could lead to the authority being sued," - when did the insurers start acting as the law

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    In interview today I have heard Mr Davie use the phrase 'get a grip' in almost every sentence (these aren't different interviews, just the answers to different questions).
    Maybe the Beeb could spend some money expanding his vocabulary for future appearances.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    I said on here the other day how much will this resignation cost us it was rated down straight away now we know £450,000 so what will the sum total of the executives now queuing with ill have some of that expressions on there faces cost us I will vote this comment down first before anyone at the BBC

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    60. teddy555
    For starters , get rid if the lefties in the BBC and then Patten.

    Errr Savile was very pro Thatcher and he is at the heart of all this !
    your argument (for want of a better term) sucks !

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    When I Finally left work & gave my notice in I only received my pay until the end of the month plus any holiday I was owed. No Bonus at all during my working life, as was the case then. It shows that ALL jobs getting bonuses do not work. We need to go back to getting a pay rise if you have proved to have put effort into the job, I got one every year. Scrap any mention of bonus in conatracts

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    Okay,the BBC meesed up? Ho hum everyone makes mistakes. I still consider the BBC to be one of the best broadcasters in the world. Want bad media? try Italy. All owned by Berlusconi,all full of corruption,lies and his horrible grin....

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    The BBC Trust website is worth a look. It has some facts and figures that may be useful.

    Perhaps it's Trustees have become too 'comfortable' and not kept their eye on the ball with some of their part-timers?

    The BBC is a very serious business, owned by the public, that should not be taken for granted by those responsible for duty care on behalf of the public.

    The BBC Trust have to get a grip.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    He could make a good start by putting a stop to George Entwhistle's pay out.
    Its disgusting to think that people are struggling in this recession while the BBC is throwing away money like this.
    I swear if they pay him they will never get another penny out of me!


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