Thursday, April 24, 2014

BBC vows to “get a grip” on spiralling crisis over false allegation

Published:

The BBC said it is trying to put its house in order

The British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, on Monday vowed to “get a grip” on the spiralling crisis over a news report in which a former top politician was wrongly implicated as a child abuser.

The pledge came as heads continued to roll over the false claims made in a BBC News-night TV programme which had already led to the resignation of George Entwistle, the Corporation’s Director-General.

On Monday, Helen Boaden, the BBC’s Director of News, and her deputy, Stephen Mitchell, stepped aside from their posts, while Lain Overton, the head of an independent research group involved in making the News-night film, also resigned.

The storm engulfing the BBC over the News-night programme came to a head on Friday when Robert Alistair McAlpine, the man wrongly implicated by the BBC in a 1980s abuse scandal in Wales, went public to declare that he had been the victim of mistaken identity.

Mr. McAlpine, a former treasurer of the Conservative Party under ex-Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, had threatened to sue the BBC and other media organisations that repeated the false allegations made against him.

On Saturday, Mr. Entwistle resigned, apologising for the News-night programme, which he said should never have been aired.

Meanwhile, fresh controversy erupted on Monday over a golden handshake for Mr. Entwistle, who would be paid a full annual salary of 450 thousand pounds (N112 million) in compensation.

The corporation’s governing board, the BBC Trust, said the pay was necessary as Mr. Entwistle would continue to work on inquiries set up to investigate child abuse accusations made recently against Jimmy Savile, a deceased BBC entertainer.

Prime Minister, David Cameron, intervening directly in the BBC’s problems for the first time, said it was “hard to justify” the pay-off for Mr. Entwistle under the circumstances.

John Wittingdale, a Conservative member of parliament, described the payment as a “reward for failure.”

The crisis over Mr. McAlpine follows allegations that the BBC turned a blind eye to widespread sex abuse by Savile, a prominent entertainer, during his four decades at the station.

Police are investigating more than 300 cases of alleged abuse of children committed by Mr. Savile from the 1960s onwards.

The BBC had been accused of having tried to cover up the allegations surrounding Mr. Savile, who died a year ago.

In particular, the BBC faced a storm over its decision a year ago not to broadcast a News-night investigation into the

abuse allegations against Mr. Savile.

As the spotlight turned on Monday to Chris Patten, the chairman of the BBC Trust, Mr. Cameron stressed that he maintained full confidence in Mr. Patten “to lead the BBC out of its present difficulties.”

Meanwhile, Tim Davie, who had been appointed acting director-general of the BBC, pledged on Monday to put in place a “clear line of command” in the BBC’s news operation.

His aim was to regain the trust in the BBC by making sure that the journalism “we put out passes muster,” Mr. Davie said.

Secondly, the BBC would look at individual processes, while not ruling out disciplinary action.

“I want to be fair to people. I don’t subscribe to the view that you should act very quickly in that regard and be unreasonable,” he added.

(dpa/NAN)

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