BBC Director General George Entwistle stepped down Saturday night, after two months of controversy surrounding his decisions and a botched television news report that implicated a powerful former politician in a sex abuse scandal at a care home.
Last week, the Newsnight show implicated former Tory politician Lord McAlpine as being part of a child rape scandal at the Bryn Estyn care home. Newsnight didn’t name the politician outright, but allegations made by the victim, Steven Messham ponted at Lord McAlpine, whose name was being rumored online, the Independent is reporting.
Entwhistle read a statement outside the BBC Saturday night, in which he conceded that his position made him editor-in-chief of all content and he had to step down because of “unacceptable journalistic standards of the Newsnight film”.
Lord McAlpine still plans to sue the BBC and others who implicated him.
BBC insiders said other resignations are likely to follow, shaking up the network, including that of Helen Boaden, director of BBC news; her deputy Steve Mitchell; and Adrian Van Klaveren, controller of Radio 5 Live, who was drafted in to steady the ship after Peter Rippon, Newsnight’s editor, stepped aside pending the investigation into the shelving of the show’s Jimmy Savile investigation.
Lord Patten, the chair of the BBC Trust, joined Entwhistle outside the BBC, where he expressed regret at Entwhistle’s retiring but criticized “shoddy journalism.”
He has behaved as editor with huge honor and courage. This is undoubtedly one of the saddest evenings of my public life.
Entwhistle has also been in a world of controversy for his “extraordinary lack of curiosity” over the Jimmy Savile scandal> He was lambasted about the Savile mess by BBC reporter John Humphrys, who said Entwhistle had no “natural curiosity” over the case.
The Nov. 2 Newsnight program in question, however, does not seem to have anything to do with the Savile controversy.
Meanwhile, Entwhistle admitted he didn’t see the controversial Newsnight show until the day after it was broadcast, and he missed a tweet that claimed the program would “unmask a senior political figure” as a pedophile.
Entwhistle is also under fire over the BBC’s handling of Jimmy Savile. Officials questioned the now-former director for two hours, and he stumbled over the interview, leading Culture Secretary Maria Miller to worry the BBC would lose the public trust.
And Newsnight editor Peter Rippon himself is under fire, after trying to kill a probe into Savile’s activities. Show reporter Liz McKean accused Rippon of trying to kill the story “by making impossible editorial demands.”