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 207.

    176. Billythefirst
    Amazon uk is based in Lichtenstein - wacky, but true, apparently.
    Population 36,304 (plus some goats, probably).
    Golly, how to work out the turnover as a percentage of profit...?

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    I think when our leaders say 'we are all in this together' they don't mean us plebs - here is an even more scandalous pay off. When I left my company because I wouldn't relocate half way across the country I got made redundant with a month's payoff - even more annoying was to discover my PPI insurance wouldn't cover my mortgage!

  • Comment number 205.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    Now I understand. Following the sad death of Clive Dunn, George Entwistle was auditioning for the part of Cpl Jones. "No control, everything is under panic!".

    The controller of light entertainment obviously forgot to tell George that Dad's Army finished in 1977.

    But never mind he got £9000 for every day he turned up at work looking confused.

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    @80. Age of Absurdity
    Strangely, many of us resent the fact that the BBC aggressively chase those who do not chose to use a TV set, to the point of harassment. No, I will NOT let you look around my house, BBC, time to stop asking and stop this ridiculous stealth tax. I have no sympathy at all and frankly, no it isn't "dirt cheap" in the slightest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    158 rebeka

    Spot on

    Were the BBC thinking about the victims when they shelved the Savil report . No they were worried about scheduling .

    Were the BBC thinking about victims when they ran the newsnoght piece .
    No they were busy trying to deflect attention and smear the Tories .

    Do the BBC care about the victims now. Not one bit .No apology to me messham just a pile of rabid defences and spin .

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    I'd rather the BBC stopped talking about itself and concentrated on the reason why this whole thing came about: Child Abuse.

    Don't let the victims be forgotten in all this - the BBC is big enough to look after itself, but there are many people out there who are still suffering because of what happened at the hands of BBC employees.

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    The various crises in recent years have had a common underlying cause: poor management.

    Once again we are seeing incompetence that I would not expect and tolerate in the most junior of my managers, let alone highly paid executives. Once again we are seeing how public sector pay is completely out of kilter with capability and how failure is rewarded with massive pay offs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    I watched on BBC news 24 as a helicopter flew around the BBC filming the outside of the building while a live outside broadcast report on the last up to the minute detail ran.
    The media and the BBC is now like some giant behemoth devouring and feeding off itself

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    I hope he does get a grip! I hope that he makes sure that all the child abuse that was being reported isn't shrouded by BBC management issues! This could be suspected as a way of sweeping all of it underneath one of their posh carpets to protect the upper class paedophiles!

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    Any volunteers for new DG of BBC?
    It's a no brainer. Take the job, resign, take home a bundle of cash.
    Could be an on-going licence money drain for some time yet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    Some say the Beeb is leftist
    Others defiantly not.
    Despite your political leaning
    It matters not one jot.

    To watch UK TV
    Its they who make the calls,
    For you need that TV licence
    so they got you by the balls.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    189. roger
    I think Tim Davie should resign.
    With the payoff he would get i bet Tim Davie thinks he should resign!

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    Maybe the government, another public body, should follow the lead of the BBC: admit its failures, sack its leader, start telling the truth. Cameron held a reshuffle simply to promote Jeremy Hunt, who protected his leader so admirably at Leveson. Perhaps they could start by making all communication between News Corp and cabinet ministers public. That would make a nice story for the BBC to cover!

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    Certainly BBC needs a thorough overhaul. It has arrogant presenters who only put their point of view. Terrible TV programs, I assume all the money is going for huge pay/bonus. "New Tricks" use to be a really good program until it got very dramatic, depressing with the story lines. Where did the humour go, no wonder the actors have or are leaving. Yet the BBC will not/never has accepted critism

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    He has been appointed to do something so let him do it !!!!
    Frenzy in the commons where all the CANNOT do a proper job brigade make the most inane comments displaying for us all to see the total lack of brain power in our Parliament. How the great orators of the past must be spinning in their graves at the boring monotonous tones of this bunch of useless prats. Why on earth do we continue with it

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    The BC at her worst is still better than any other broadcaster at their best.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    I'm glad BBC journalism is being shown up for its lack of integrity. There's not been one mention of Margaret Moran, the ex-Labour MP who is on trial for house flipping, on the BBC's 6 o'clock news, so why not? Because it's bad press for Labour?

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    I think Tim Davie should resign.

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    Watching all this develop from the here in the US I think there is a danger of throwing out the baby with the bathwater

    What has happened is serious and does need investigating, but we shouldn't lose sight of what an excellent broadcaster the BBC is...

    If you had to put up with the unrelenting diet of absolute garbage here, together with massively more time for ads you'd appreciate the BBC more


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