BBC needs 'radical overhaul' - Patten
“It left the impression that the management of the BBC had lost their grip of the organisation and I think tonight’s decision is undoubtedly the right one,” he said. “I think that what has happened in the last few days has immensely weakened his authority and credibility. It would have been very difficult for him to continue in those circumstances.”
Mr Entwistle has been under fire since the disclosure that in his previous job as head of BBC television he had run tribute programmes on Jimmy Savile even though he was aware that Newsnight was investigating the late DJ.
He came under pressure to explain why he had not sought any information about what the allegations were that the programme was looking into.
After the allegations broke last month in an ITV documentary he was criticised for delays in setting up an inquiry and correcting mistakes in the BBC’s account of what happened.
The chief executive of BBC Worldwide, Tim Davie, will take over temporarily as acting director general while a permanent replacement is found.
One of the first issues he will have to deal with is a emergency report commissioned by Mr Entwistle into what happened over Newsnight’s north Wales investigation which had been due to land on his desk today.
There was some support for Mr Entwistle. Labour former culture secretary Ben Bradshaw described his departure as “a dreadful injustice and a terrible mistake”.
Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman said his departure was “a great shame”, saying he had been “brought low by cowards and incompetents”.
“The real problem here is the BBC’s decision, in the wake of the Hutton Inquiry, to play safe by appointing biddable people. They then compounded the problem by enforcing a series of cuts on programme budgets, while bloating the management,” he said in a statement released via his agent’s Twitter page. “That is how you arrive at the current mess on Newsnight. I had hoped that George might stay to sort this out. It is a great pity that a talented man has been sacrificed while time-servers prosper.”
Mr Entwistle’s position was dramatically undermined on Friday night when child abuse victim Steve Messham, who was interviewed by Newsnight, said Lord McAlpine was not the man who he told Newsnight had abused him when he was a teenager at a north Wales children’s home.
Although the programme, shown on November 2nd, had not named the peer - referring only to a senior Conservative from the Thatcher era - it quickly resulted in him being identified on internet blogs and social media sites.
With lawyers for Lord McAlpine indicating they were preparing to sue for defamation, the programme broadcast a humiliating on-air apology.
Appearing yesterday morning on Today, Mr Entwistle warned that staff involved could face disciplinary action but insisted that he was not intending to resign.
However, he acknowledged his fate lay ultimately in the hands of his employers, the BBC Trust.
“I am doing the right things to try and put this stuff straight,” he said. “I am accountable to the trust in that endeavour. If they do not feel I am doing the right things, then obviously I will be bound by their judgment.” It appears today that the judgment was that that task was beyond him.