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BBC chief resigns

BBC director general George Entwistle has quit in the wake of the series of scandals that has rocked the UK pubcaster since he took charge just under two months ago.

George Entwistle

Entwistle, who took over from Mark Thompson 54 days ago, has been with the BBC for 23 years but will now leave after his position became untenable.

Investigations are continuing into the child abuse scandal surrounding former presenter Jimmy Savile that has sent shockwaves throughout the organisation and this week the BBC was thrown into further turmoil after flagship current affairs show Newsnight made false allegations against a former Conservative Party politician.

Entwistle has now fallen on his sword over the latter case, issuing the following statement:

“In the light of the fact that the director general is also the editor-in-chief and ultimately responsible for all content; and in the light of the unacceptable journalistic standards of the Newsnight film broadcast on Friday 2nd November; I have decided that the honourable thing to do is to step down from the post of director general.

“When appointed to the role, with 23 years’ experience as a producer and leader at the BBC, I was confident the Trustees had chosen the best candidate for the post, and the right person to tackle the challenges and opportunities ahead. However, the wholly exceptional events of the past few weeks have led me to conclude that the BBC should appoint a new leader.

“To have been the director general of the BBC even for a short period, and in the most challenging of circumstances, has been a great honour.

“While there is understandable public concern over a number of issues well covered in the media – which I’m confident will be addressed by the Review process – we must not lose sight of the fact that the BBC is full of people of the greatest talent and the highest integrity. That’s what will continue to make it the finest broadcaster in the world.”

Meanwhile the BBC is facing legal action from Lord McAlpine, a former Conservative Party treasurer, who the Newsnight programme linked to a string of child abuse cases in North Wales in the 1970s and 1980s. While the report did not name McAlpine, it didn’t take long for Twitter users to make the connection. It later emerged that the journalists concerned hadn’t put the allegations to McAlpine to give him the right of reply ahead of broadcast.

The latest crisis of confidence in the BBC comes as the pubcaster remains engulfed in the Jimmy Savile scandal. Entwistle has been forced to go before parliament to defend the corporation’s handling of the matter, which BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten has described as having unleashed a “tsunami of filth.”

In response to Entwistle’s resignation today, Lord Patten, issued the following statement:

“This is undoubtedly one of the saddest evenings of my public life. George Entwistle worked for the BBC for 23 years. He exemplifies the finest values of public service broadcasting. At the heart of the BBC is its role as a trusted global news organisation, and as the editor-in-chief of this organisation, George has very honourably offered us his resignation because of the unacceptable mistakes and the unacceptable shoddy journalism which has caused so much controversy. He has behaved as editor with huge honour and courage and would that the rest of the world always behaved the same. George was set on putting in place a number of reforms and changes which will be required in this great organisation and it is a real tragedy that he has been overwhelmed by these events, as we all were to a great extent, before he was able to act in a way that was clearly necessary.”

From tomorrow, Tim Davie will take over as acting director general until a permanent replacement can be found. Davie – the BBC’s direct of audio and music – was due to take over as CEO of commercial arm BBC Worldwide on December 1, having recently been named successor to the outgoing John Smith.

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