More heads expected to roll at BBC in wake of Entwistle's resignation as DG
Several senior BBC managers are expected to fall, following the weekend’s resignation of the corporation’s newly appointed director general over the handling of paedophilia allegations by BBC’s Newsnight.
In a bid to take control of the crisis, BBC chairman Lord Patten declared that a replacement for George Entwistle – in post for just 54 days – will be made rapidly.
Major reforms of the BBC’s often-criticised, unwieldy management will be made, said Lord Patten, arguing the broadcaster “had more senior leaders than the Chinese Communist Party”.
During a round of television interviews, Lord Patten said the BBC has to show it “has a grip” on the crisis and must “get ourselves back on to the road” to hold the public’s trust.
Careful not to be seen interfering with the BBC’s independence, No 10 Downing Street said the BBC has the ability to reform, but it also mentioned the need for “a grip” to be taken.
Newsnight faces investigations for not broadcasting an inquiry into Sir Jimmy Savile last December and for making unsupported charges against an unnamed former Conservative politician.
The former politician was quickly “outed” on the internet as former Conservative Party treasurer Lord Robert McAlpine, though the charges made against him were false.
Mr Entwistle’s brief tenure was effectively ended in a disastrous interview with BBC Radio 4 Today presenter John Humphrys on Saturday.
In it, Mr Entwistle admitted he had not been told beforehand that Newsnight planned to broadcast allegations linking a senior Tory from the Thatcher era to an abuse scandal at a north Wales children’s home.
“Cerebral, decent” man
Saying that he had not tried to persuade Mr Entwistle from resigning, Lord Patten said he had “wanted to do all the right things”.
“He is a very, very good man – cerebral, decent, honourable, brave,” said the former Conservative MP and governor of Hong Kong, adding that Mr Entwistle had been overwhelmed.
Despite calls he should quit, too, Lord Patten said that he had no doubt “people will tell me to take my cards and clear off” if he does not restore trust.
“But I will not take my marching orders from Mr Murdoch’s newspapers.”
The crisis, if anything, is set to ensure the reforms planned by Mr Entwistle will go through, requiring leaner management and fewer divisions.
Lord Patten said that Mr Entwistle had been “spot on” when he said that the BBC had “to get away from the infighting, be much more self-critical” and devolve power and responsibility through the organisation.
Questions about the future of Newsnight have been raised, though the BBC chairman insisted that the investigative traditions of both it and Panorama must be protected.