Pressure on director general George Entwistle mounts
LONDON — There is a growing feeling that the BBC’s director general, George Entwistle, will have to resign as the crisis at the U.K. pubcaster continues to grow over the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal.
At least one British MP said Wednesday that both Entwistle, who only took over last month, and the chairman of the BBC Trust, Chris Patten, who appointed the beleaguered director general in July, both need “to fall on their swords.”
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph MP Roger Gale, a former broadcaster, said: “BBC management, over far too many years, has sought to maintain an imperious disdain for criticism, and it has become clear that successive directors general have, while happy to criticize others for not answering difficult questions, either turned a blind eye to criminal activities or have not known what has been going on on their own doorstep, which is also culpable.
“It is as if your favorite and respectable aunt has been revealed to be on the game, and if (Chris Patten) is not able to grasp that, then I fear that not only the director general, but also the chairman of the BBC Trust are going to have to fall on their swords.”
The seasoned U.K. media commentator Raymond Snoddy thinks it is only a matter of time before Entwistle ankles, and is replaced by the BBC’s former chief operating officer Caroline Thomson, who applied for the top job but failed to get it, and was recently forced out of the org.
Snoddy said, “After his appearance yesterday before British MPs in which he looked and sounded like a vicar on a sabbatical who has somehow strayed into the top job in British broadcasting by accident, Entwistle’s authority has begun to drain away.
“I am sorry to say he has become a figure of ridicule.”
Snoddy added: “Last Christmas, BBC Television broadcast two toe-curlingly embarrassing tributes to Savile while its own journalists, and probably some senior news executives, knew of the emerging scandal of Savile the sexual predator on under-age women.
“Mark Thompson (the BBC’s former director general) was actually in charge of the corporation when the tributes went out, and George Entwistle was head of BBC Vision and the man responsible for putting them in the schedule, and had been warned that the Christmas schedule might have to change.
“Entwistle, and Thompson before him, had an absolute responsibility to know about things that could totally undermine the BBC and trust in its journalism.”
On Tuesday John Whittingdale, chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport committee of British MPs, said Entwistle had shown “an extraordinary lack of curiosity” over the dumped “Newsnight” investigation into Savile’s abuse of young girls.
The U.K. press’ verdict on Entwistle’s performance before British pols on Tuesday, as he was grilled on the Savile scandal, was virtually unanimous — he was humiliated.
Even the BBC-supporting Guardian described Entwistle’s showing in front of MPs as “uncertain.”
The Murdoch-owned Sun, which loathes the Beeb, described the director general as “bumbling,” and in a front page splash said the BBC stood for “Baffled, Bumbling and Clueless.”
It is possible that Thompson’s new job as CEO of the New York Times, where he is due to start Nov. 11, may be jeopardized by the affair.
The newspaper’s ombudsman questioned Thompson’s suitability for the role in a blog published Tuesday.