The BBC’s director-general, George Entwistle, has resigned over mistakes made by Newsnight in reporting allegations of child abuse in a care home in north Wales. He had been in the post for just 54 days.
Entwistle made a statement just after 9pm alongside BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten. Patten referred to “unacceptable, shoddy” journalism at Newsnight, and praised Entwistle’s “courage” in acting honourably by stepping down. Neither Entwistle or Patten took any questions, although Patten will appear on the Andrew Marr programme tomorrow.
Tim Davie, head of audio and music, will be acting director-general. As the FT‘s Ben Fenton notes, he does not have a journalistic background:
Choice of Tim Davey as acting DG is interesting. No journalism background to speak of. A commercial director and head of radio.
— Ben Fenton (@benfenton) November 10, 2012
Yesterday, the BBC apologised for the Newsnight report which led to Tory peer Lord McAlpine being wrongly identified as a child abuser. It later emerged that the victim, Steve Messham, had identified another man.
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.
Many have contrasted Entwistle’s decision with that of other media bosses who have been affected by scandal. The New Statesman‘s former editor – and current media commentator – Peter Wilby noted:
Will someone do list of newspaper editors who resigned after big libels? Egs from Mail, Sun, Times, Telegraph wd be particularly interesting
— Peter Wilby (@WilbyPeter) November 10, 2012