You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

BBC boss ankles in wake of abuse scandal

Director General George Entwistle steps down over 'Newsnight' debacle


Chris Patten, chairman of the BBC’s governing body, the BBC Trust, said Sunday that the U.K. pubcaster’s new director-general would be appointed within weeks after George Entwistle quit after less than two months on the job.

Entwistle, a 23-year BBC vet, quit Saturday following a series of disastrous missteps related to the Beeb’s news coverage of sexual molestation allegations leveled at the late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile and a separate child abuse scandal involving a senior Conservative Party politician.

Patten said the BBC needed a “radical structural overhaul,” and that one option would be to split the director general’s responsibilities as chief exec and editor-in-chief.

Patten has named Tim Davie as acting director-general. Davie is director of BBC audio and music, a role in which he has responsibility for the BBC’s radio network. Davie had been set to become the new CEO of BBC Worldwide, the pubcaster’s commercial arm, in December following his appointment in October.

Entwistle, who was appointed as BBC chief in July, was lambasted in early October when it emerged that an investigation by flagship news analysis show “Newsnight” into the alleged sexual abuse of children by Savile had been ditched in questionable circumstances. It was suspected that pressure from senior execs had been brought to bear to kill the allegations as the BBC had been planning a series of tribute shows to Savile. This had happened at a time when Entwistle, as director of BBC Vision, was in charge of the BBC’s television output.

Entwistle and the BBC again came under fire on Nov. 2 when “Newsnight” falsely alleged that Conservative Party pol Alistair McAlpine had been part of a pedophile ring.

Entwistle’s coup de grace came Saturday when he was interviewed by John Humphrys, widely acknowledged as being the BBC’s most ferocious journalist, on radio program “Today.” Entwistle admitted he hadn’t been aware of the allegations that “Newsnight” were planning to make about McAlpine until after the show had aired.

In his resignation statement, Entwistle said: “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 honorable thing to do is to step down from the post of director general.

Patten said in a statement Saturday: “At the heart of the BBC is its role as a trusted global news organization, and as the editor-in-chief of this organization, George has very honorably offered us his resignation because of the unacceptable mistakes and the unacceptable shoddy journalism which has caused so much controversy.”

He added that the Trust would begin the process of agreeing on a permanent successor immediately.

It is likely that “Newsnight” will be shuttered, and even one of its own presenters, Eddie Mair, has said it is “toast.”

Patten told Sky News on Sunday that he and Davie would discuss the show’s future later that day, but added that “what should survive is investigative journalism.”

Davie came to the BBC in 2005 as director of its marketing, communications and audiences division. Before that he worked as a marketing exec at PepsiCo and Procter and Gamble.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Tony Hall, Director General of the

    BBC Could Move More Operations Outside London, Its Boss Suggests

    Amid longstanding complaints from many viewers that the BBC is too London-centric, the boss of the world’s most famous pubcaster hinted Thursday that it could move more of its operations and programming outside the British capital. Tony Hall, the BBC’s director general, said the organization had already made “enormous strides” in geographical diversity. “A decade [...]

  • Brad Simpson Nina Jacobson

    Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson Renew FX Overall Deal

    Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson are keeping their Color Force production banner at FX Productions, with the producers signing a new four-year overall deal with the company. “Our creative collaboration with Nina and Brad has been rewarding, not just in the rich and growing catalogue of event and signature series they’ve helped produce for FX, [...]

  • NBCUNIVERSAL LOGOS -- Pictured: "E!" Logo

    NBCUniversal Cable Hit With Significant Layoffs Amid Restructuring

    Amid a restructuring, another round of layoffs are set to impact NBCUniversal’s E!, Bravo, Oxygen, USA and Syfy networks Thursday, a source familiar with the situation tells Variety, not long after the E! network laid off around 20-25 staff in August. This round of layoffs is likely to impact fewer than 45 employees, more than [...]

  • Peaky Blinders Season 5

    Time-Jumping Season 5 of 'Peaky Blinders' Aims for a More Cinematic Look

    Cinematographer Si Bell was thrilled to learn he and director Anthony Byrne had been tapped to shoot the fifth season of BBC’s “Peaky Blinders,” but surprised to find out how free a hand executive producers Caryn Mandabach and Jamie Glazebrook were giving them to determine the scheme of their six-episode run. “I expected to meet the [...]

  • Daniel Levy Schitts Creek

    'Schitt's Creek' Co-Creator Dan Levy Signs ABC Studios Overall Deal

    “Schitt’s Creek” breakout Dan Levy has signed a multi-year overall deal at ABC Studios. Under the deal, Levy will develop and produce scripted projects for the studio. “Dan Levy has proven himself as one of the most creative people in the TV business,” said Jonnie Davis, president of ABC Studios. “His writing, acting and producing [...]

  • Barry Bill Hader

    Emmys 2019: Clear Favorites and Top Challengers for This Year's Winners (Column)

    If this felt like the longest, most expensive Emmy campaign in history, you might be right. For one thing, the 2019 Primetime Emmys will be held Sept. 22, which is the latest the ceremony has taken place since 2013. That also happened to be the last year of TV’s quaint, pre-streaming era, before outlets like [...]

  • AMERICA'S GOT TALENT -- "Live Results

    TV Ratings: 'America's Got Talent' Finale Draws 10 Million Viewers

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read on if you have not seen the season 14 finale of “America’s Got Talent.” The finale of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” which saw blind, autistic singer Kodi Lee crowned the winner, drew almost exactly 10 million viewers for the Peacock on Wednesday night. Bolstered by a robust, velvety Cher performance, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content