BBC director general Tim Davie vows to `get a grip`
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Last Updated: Monday, November 12, 2012, 22:51
  
London: BBC's acting director general Tim Davie has vowed to "get a grip" at the corporation following the resignation of George Entwistle over a Newsnight broadcast on child abuse allegations.

Davie said he had set up a "clear line of command" in news. The director and deputy director of news have been asked to "step aside" pending an internal review into the way claims about former BBC presenter Jimmy Savile were handled.

Davie said Entwistle's pay-off was a matter for the BBC Trust. Davie was appointed to the role on Saturday after Entwistle announced he was resigning.

Entwistle left after eight weeks in the post with a year's salary of 450,000 pounds. Amid criticism from Downing Street of the pay-off, Lord Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust - the corporation's governing body - has written to Commons culture, media and sport committee chairman John Whittingdale, describing the decision as "justified and necessary".

His letter says the sum was what the BBC would have had to pay if they had fired Entwistle and that the trust was considering sacking him if he had not volunteered his resignation.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller said it was "very difficult to justify the decision that's been taken. To really be able to justify to the licence fee payer value for money and this is going to have to happen".

Prime Minister David Cameron said Entwistle pay-off was "hard to justify". A Downing Street source said, "The Prime Minister thinks it's hard to justify."

Several MPs have joined the PM's criticism of Entwistle's pay-off. Labour has been granted an urgent government statement on the issue in Parliament. Davie, told staff by email today that there would be "no handbrake turn" in implementing work started by Entwistle on "getting rid of anything that gets in the way of delivering the best of British creativity to our audiences."

Fran Unsworth, head of newsgathering, and Ceri Thomas, editor of Radio 4's Today programme have been asked to fill the respective roles of director and deputy director of news, for the time being, while "to address the pressure on the Newsnight team", Karen O'Connor will become acting editor of the programme. A journalist involved with the north Wales investigation quit his job at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

BIJ editor Iain Overton had tweeted before broadcast that Newsnight was going to link a senior political figure with paedophilia.

In his first televised interview since taking the role, Davie said, "If the public are going to get journalism they trust from the BBC I have to be, as director general, very clear on who is running the news operation and ensuring that journalism we put out passes muster."

"The first decision I have made is to get a grip of that, take action and build trust by putting a clear line of command in," he said.

"Separately, we are going to look at the individual process, and there may be disciplinary action. But 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 said.

Entwistle resigned following a Newsnight report which led to former Tory treasurer, Lord McAlpine, being wrongly accused of child abuse in north Wales in the 1980s. Davie told BBC Radio 4's The World At One that he hoped to talk to Lord McAlpine personally about Newsnight broadcast.

Ken MacQuarrie, director of BBC Scotland, was asked to investigate how Newsnight was allowed to broadcast its report and his findings were presented to the acting director general yesterday.

The BBC said it found that neither director of news Helen Boaden nor her deputy Steve Mitchell "had anything at all to do with the failed Newsnight investigation into Lord McAlpine".

However, they were in the chain of command at the time that Newsnight shelved an earlier investigation into abuse claims against Savile.

According to a BBC report, they had removed themselves from making decisions on some areas of BBC News output while a separate inquiry, by former head of Sky News Nick Pollard, was held into that decision.

The BBC said once the Pollard Review reports, Boaden and Mitchell "expect to then return to their positions".

MacQuarrie said, "To address the lack of clarity around the editorial chain of command, a decision has been taken to re-establish a single management to deal with all output, Savile-related or otherwise."

PTI


First Published: Monday, November 12, 2012, 22:50


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