Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

BBC Director General Resigns in Growing Abuse Scandal Departure Prompted by Outrage over Media Giant's Role in Two Pedophile Cases

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

BBC Director General Resigns in Growing Abuse Scandal Departure Prompted by Outrage over Media Giant's Role in Two Pedophile Cases

Article excerpt

LONDON -- After weeks of turmoil over the BBC's coverage of a spreading pedophile scandal, the broadcaster's director general, George Entwistle, resigned Saturday night, bowing to a wave of condemnation including from a BBC television anchor, who depicted him as having lost control of "a rudderless ship heading towards the rocks."

Mr. Entwistle's sudden departure as the BBC's chief executive was prompted by outrage over a report on "Newsnight," one of the network's flagship current affairs programs, that wrongly implicated a former Conservative Party politician in a pedophile scandal involving a children's home in Wales.

Mr. Entwistle said the report, broadcast on Nov. 2, reflected "unacceptable journalistic standards" and never should have been broadcast.

That broadcast has only compounded the problems facing the network since the revelation last month that a longtime BBC television host, Jimmy Savile, was suspected of having sexually abused perhaps hundreds of young people over the course of decades, sometimes on the BBC premises. The network has been accused of covering up the accusations by canceling a Newsnight report on the Savile case last year, when Mr. Entwistle was a senior executive at the network.

Mr. Entwistle was barely two months into the director's job, heading one of the world's largest media organizations. His departure followed the suspension in the past month of a number of senior producers as the BBC has struggled to find a path through what many commentators have described as its greatest crisis in decades.

A 50-year-old career broadcaster who rose through the ranks of BBC producers, Mr. Entwistle made his announcement on the steps of the BBC's new billion-dollar headquarters in central London. With the BBC's chairman, Chris Patten, standing gloomily beside him, Mr. Entwistle said he had decided that resigning was "the honorable thing to do."

"The wholly exceptional events of the past few weeks have led me to conclude that the BBC should appoint a new leader," he said.

He added that the intense public scrutiny of the BBC that has resulted from the pedophile scandal should not lead people "to lose sight of the fact that the BBC is full of people of the greatest talent and the highest integrity."

Mr. Patten, the BBC chairman, said that Tim Davie, 45, the BBC's director of audio and music, would become the acting director general.

Mr. Patten, whose own position may now be imperiled by the wave of demands for the BBC to be brought to account over the scandal, did not attempt to disguise the gravity of the situation, alluding to the "unacceptable mistakes, the unacceptably shoddy journalism" that had culminated in the Nov. 2 "Newsnight" program.

That program focused on allegations of abuses by a senior politician in the 1970s and 1980s at a children's home in north Wales. …

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