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 247.

    I can hardly believe that Tim Davie walked out of an interview on Sky News.

    (1) How rude

    (2) What was he doing on Sky News anyway, when he has a rather important job to do?

    (3) Should we all have a whip round and buy the man a tie?

    If this is "getting a grip" I'd love to see what he means by NOT having a grip . . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    The BBC have politicised an abuse scandal .
    Pure and simple .
    There are no editorial guidelines for mounting a hasty smear campaign .

    Put Saville investigations into a larger enquirey , the BBC can no longer be trusted .
    Then have the once in a lifetime de politicisation of the BBC .

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    I think there's been enough attention paid to this bit of news, and while it's been the funniest thing since Laurel and Hardy, hopefully tomorrow we'll have stuff like "Investigation into alleged manipulation of gas prices" and "Starbucks, Google and Amazon grilled over tax avoidance" as leads.

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    He's a worry,the problems have been journalistic led,he has no background in leading,editing or even working as a journalist! Even this massive issue aside ,if his background has been in PR that makes him the same sort of appointee as "call me Dave" Lord Fontleroy Cameron,Lord help us all !!!! Bring back Greg Dyke,Patten if he has any decency should go,he hasn't,he won't!

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    I do believe that the time has come to break up the BBC, sell of its bits and pieces to overseas investors who can then charge us a punitive amount for watching pointless teli like we have today. THEN that would be OK. After all its happened to our water, our gas our electricity . Nothing left except the nhs AND OF COURSE THE bEEB.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    hey the BBC is the greatest institution ever created for the good of man kind and everyone in the whole wide world should pay it £140 for its even balanced outlook on the world once every year

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    I now know more about the inner workings of the BBC than I ever wanted to know. It is being pushed at us - multimedia style - and we are not being allowed to escape from it. Beeb, you have a vast output - you've cocked up in one area - fix it move on.

    Still very good value for money, one of the last things we've got in Britain that's world class.

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    Seems to be a lot of right wingers losing sight of the actual basis of this whole matter - namely the abuse of children in care. How disgraceful that they are trying to use this for political gain. Those calling for Entwistle to be hung, drawn and quartered when he is taking the blame for others are happy for Cameron to welcome back onto his Cabinet a minister who fiddled his expenses. Hypocrites

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    How many TV licenses can you buy with £500,000.00 in 53 days. Incidently what happened to Frank Gardner the defence journalist working for BBC NEWS??? ALL THIS UNDER D.G,s ENTWHISTLES NOSE less than 8 wks ago? YOUR HAVING A LAUGH!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    The BBC is corrupt and rotten to the core. Being self-serving and politically correct is now commonplace in virtually all our public institutions but the BBC is by far the worst example. Time to get rid of the left wing extremists that run it but for this we would need a government with some bottle, sadly that is something we don't have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    229. BareBodkin

    My advice is: forget getting a grip; get a tie !!
    Too right, after all you never saw that Jimmy Savile in a tie!

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    I was shocked to find out how many leftwing journalists have more than casual links into the BBC news operation. The BBC needs a thorough cleaning out. No political neutrality, no licence fee. Sort it out. Openly and clearly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    The BBC is independent. Have you got the message you Parliamentary headline grabbers!!!!!?????
    If you don't like what it does go and watch Sky !!!!
    The BBC is our protection from a world controlled by the politicos.
    God help us ALL if that ever changes

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    The trouble with the Beeb is that they still think its 1932..with presenters in Dinner Jackets reading the News on the radio...Its 2012..and stop paying wages to people like they are Bankers...Get rid of all the dead as portrayed in Alan Partridge...and make em a commercial station..then lets see the "TALENT" B****r O**..half wouldnt get a job except at the Beeb!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    224. mattmatt81
    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..

    He deserves an open apology .
    Especially as the first beeb apology article tried to blame him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    BBC stop washing your dirty linen in public - we love you but you should just get on with things and not make it 10 times worse by giving us all a running commentary. And don't stop investigating paedos - we need you for that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    Sorry - in my earlier comment I had assumed that the DG had resigned. I was assuming the dictionary definition which implies he made the decision himself. For 'resigned' we now read 'negotiated settlement' - in simpler terms - he was pushed - sacked. So that's okay then - he needs compensation for his unfair dismissal!
    And while we're at it - compensation must be due to the abuse victims!

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    3093 Colour licence fees for 40+ days work?

    How hard did 3093 work? How many are low paid? makes me sick!

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    The message: -
    Suit and tie = the organisation is more important than my ego.
    Suit no tie = I aspire to be a commodity trader.
    Expensive suit jacket and jeans = I want to be James Goldsmith.

    My advice is: forget getting a grip; get a tie !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    The BBC seems to be falling apart at the seams. Scandal after scandal... and we are not to the bottom of them all most likely.

    Once an esteemed public broadcaster - money seems to have gone to their heads. Badly run for years, evidently.

    There should be a complete re-shuffle and new staff brought in with managerial experience from businesses where they Have to make a profit to survive...


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