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]

Most computers will open PDF documents automatically, but you may need Adobe Reader

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.


More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    So one broadcast is in error, apparently - i didn't watch it personally; does the DG have to vet every programme? Surely there must be others responsible and if there are mistakes the DG should be the one taking action. Why on earth is he allowed to walk away - make him sort it out and hopefully he will learn from it.
    That said; I, like most, don't know enough of the facts to be able to judge.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    The BBC is a fine institution, but I'm getting mighty tired of the weeping and wailing - and committing of hari kari. Grow some cojones!

    The Beeb has enemies and they will never stop demanding resignations - I expect the tea boy who delivered the refreshments to some vital editorial meeting will be "spending more time with his family" any time soon!

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    When the truth, or not, of the news, is the news, where do you turn for the news you can trust?. From newspapers, to politicians, to television, who can you believe, I'm afraid much trust is gone, and with that, goodwill. Sad days for all, integrity shattered, little to hope for, and yet so much to hope for. But first we must regain our trust, and it is them that must earn it. Sad days, sad days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    209 bludog

    Mr messham . Has been treated awfully by the BBC . One minuite given non stop headline billing , given a platform to make demands of the pm .
    Now forced to apologise because his story was not checked . The other allegations he made have been knocked off of the agenda , and abusers given a defence .

    He deserves an open apology .

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    @190 'William Johnson-Smith'
    The trial of Margaret Moran ex Luton MP is being reported on BBC local news sites.

    If every MP being investigated on expenses fraud was covered by the BBC 6'clock News would take hours, if not days or weeks and fill all schedules!

  • Comment number 222.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    The BBC is an incestuous, arrogant organization that has lost all touch with reality. It is anti coalition and very near anti anything else in this country. The politicians are very wary of getting involved and who is it going to be left to, to sort the mess out? Why another BBC person who comes from the same stable as those who caused this mess in the first place.Expect nothing to change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    if the bbc is so bad how come people are using this forum? also the bbc4 programme on the history of the discovery of electricity is brilliant.....forget all this journalistic crap, it will be forgotten soon, the beeb still makes brilliant programmes.#214 odd advert!!!! mean about 15 every 15 minutes like on midsomer murders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    I have nothing personal against the BBC but I don't want to pay for it.

    It's about time the British Public wasn't forced to pay this tax.

    All those who love the BBC can continue to subscribe to it.

    But I don't see why I should be forced to subsidise other people's entertainment.

    I would not ask someone in a cinema queue to pay for my ticket, would you!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    I don't see why I should now continue to pay my licence fee? This is a defective service and if this were any other product, I might either get a refund or at least have the option of not buying the product. Neither choice is the case.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    go on give us a say Abu

  • Comment number 216.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    Patten's letter makes no sense. To avoid paying 12 month's severance pay he's agreed to pay 12 month's compensation. If Patten had the guts to sack Entwistle he might have never worked again. Now he's been allowed to resign he can walk into another cushy job. Either sack him or agree to his resignation on the minimum contractual terms.

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    'get a grip' lol i bet Tim Davie wont need to pay into a pension. its about time the licence fee was scrapped. i don't mind the odd advert every now and again. what a farce.

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    And what, you may ask, is the "Bureau of Investigative Journalism"?? Sounds nice and independent, yes? NO. It has been described as "set up...with a grant....from a charity founded by....a LABOUR Party donor".

    So your supposedly neutral news item from the supposedly independent BBC was sourced from a Labour activist's journo operation! The BBC needs root and branch reform. .

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    Perhaps we should also look at removing the BBC license mandate then they could raise this sort of cash dole out from commercial sources and not from Joe public, we may also benefit from less repeats, - - -Xmas is coming,633 squadron, Battle of the bulge, Dam-busters,Mary Poppins.

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    Following Patten's largesse towards Entwistle and the BBC Trust's immediate endorsement of his pay off; Other potential targets on the Executive Board will be queuing up to be associated with the DG's failures.....and get their payoffs quickly, before the serious stuff ( the paedophilia allegations)emerges from the Inquiry

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    Radio 5 live sums up the BBC.Hostile phone ins deliberately alienating people, it draws no conclusions, merely abuse from presenters who simply want to stir up the hostility.Stephen Noland, Nicky Campbell and Victoria Derbyshire continue to destroy a great legacy.Don't continually 'dumb down'. This 'scandal' is part of the ethos ie. sling as much muck as you can with very little research !

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    Stephen Messham was NOT mistaken. Courageous as he is, without the support of those much less-damaged than him who can match his bravery with their conviction, he could not handle the pressure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    Exactly - cover up will happen all over again, because the perpetrators have power. What about the children involved?
    Isn't it stange that there is now another "reveal" of a child abuse in Australia? We need independent investigative journalism to uncover the truth, no more cover ups and false trails. THE TRUTH.


Page 22 of 33


More UK stories



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.