A day after it faced harsh criticism in a review of its response to the Jimmy Savile/Newsnight crisis, the BBC has taken a lambasting from British lawmakers over a severance payment to former director general George Entwistle. The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament slammed the pubcaster for a “cavalier use of public money” when it agreed to pay Entwistle £450,000 ($714,000) upon his November resignation, twice the provisions in his contract. Entwistle resigned amid furor sparked by the BBC’s handling of the Savile sex scandal and questionable editorial decisions made at flagship current affairs program Newsnight. “Public servants should not be rewarded for failure. But that was exactly what happened when the BBC Trust paid off [Entwistle],” the committee said. In response, BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten again defended the move to swiftly resolve Entwistle’s severance, telling BBC Radio 4 today, “The legal advice we had is: if we fought, we would have fetched up a bigger bill.” He also called the committee’s report “shabby.” The committee said it has asked for an official examination of the BBC’s severance payments and benefits for senior managers which have totaled over £4M to 10 people since 2010.
Lord Tony Hall has been chief executive of the Royal Opera House since 2001. He was also the BBC‘s head of news and current affairs from 1996-2001. His appointment to the BBC’s top job comes just 12 days after the resignation of former BBC director general George Entwistle amid ongoing crises at the venerable broadcaster. When Entwistle stepped down, BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten promised he would waste no time in naming a new chief and although Hall is a former BBC employee, his appointment falls in line with speculation that a new director general would come from outside the corporation’s current staff. Patten today said Hall was “the right person to lead the BBC out of its current crisis” and that his journalism experience would be “invaluable as the BBC looks to rebuild its reputation.”
Related: UPDATE: Latest Fiasco At BBC Turns Up The Heat On Incoming New York Times CEO
Hall, who will take over from interim director general Tim Davie, will be receive an annual salary of £450K, the same that Entwistle was paid. He is currently also deputy chairman of Channel 4 Television, a post it is presumed he will now have to abandon. In a statement, Hall said, “I believe passionately in the BBC and that’s why I have accepted Lord Patten’s invitation to become Director General. This organisation is an incredibly important part of what makes the United Kingdom what it is. And of course it matters not just to people in this country – but to tens of millions around the world too. It’s been a difficult few weeks – but together we’ll get through it. I’m committed to ensuring
Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage
It may not be all bad news for former BBC director general George Entwistle. The executive, who resigned on Saturday amid ongoing turmoil at the broadcaster, will reportedly receive a lump sum equivalent to his annual £450,000 ($714,000) salary on top of a pension pot worth £877,000 ($1.39M). The payoff comes after Entwistle spent just 54 days in the top job and at the end of 23 years with the BBC. The money was described by the BBC Trust as a reflection of his continuing involvement with various internal inquiries currently underway. Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman said the payoff was “hard to justify,” according to The Guardian, but that it was for the BBC Trust to decide. But Conservative MP John Whittingdale,
Ongoing and growing problems at the BBC have stirred a media maelstrom that is beginning to rival the one surrounding the phone-hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch’s UK papers. And the Murdoch press seems to be reveling in a little bit of schadenfreude after last night’s resignation of BBC director general George Entwistle. The Sun newspaper’s front page today calls Entwistle “Gormless George” and blares: “Bye Bye Chump.” And an editorial in The Sunday Times suggests it is time for BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten to exit: “Last night Lord Patten put his poodle out of his misery. If he has any sense of honour, he should take responsibility for promoting his creature and go too,” it reads. But while Patten today acknowledged the possibility that he may have to leave if public trust is not restored in the BBC, he also told the Murdoch-controlled Sky News, “I’m not going to this morning take my marching orders from Mr. Murdoch’s newspapers.”
Murdoch himself has also been busy on Twitter, posting ahead of Entwistle’s ankling: “BBC getting into deeper mess. After Savile scandal, now prominent news program falsely names senior pol as paedophile.”
BBC Trust Chairman: “You’ve Only Got To Watch Television In America Or France Or Italy To Know How Good The BBC Is”
Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage
As the BBC scrambles to right the ship in the wake of another disaster at its Newsnight program – and last night’s resignation of director general George Entwistle – BBC Trust chairman Lord Chris Patten made the rounds of the British media on Sunday. Defending the man he appointed, Patten told Sky News that Entwistle left “because there was a bad piece of journalism for which he took responsibility. It was an honorable and decent thing to do. What we need to do now is get a grip of what is happening at the BBC.” Patten told the BBC’s Andrew Marr this morning that the BBC itself was in need of a “thorough, radical, structural overhaul.” But, he also noted, “You’ve only got to watch television in America or France or Italy to know how good the BBC is… The basis for the BBC’s position in this country, is the trust that people have in it.” He added, “If the BBC loses that, it’s over. There are one or two newspapers, Mr. [Rupert] Murdoch’s papers, who would love that, but I think the great British public doesn’t want to see that happen.” The BBC is funded by the British people who pay a fixed license fee for owning a television set, and it has been an enormously trusted and integral part of British life for some 85 years.
This article was reported and written by Deadline’s London correspondent Joe Utichi and International Editor Nancy Tartaglione:
2ND UPDATE, 6:07 PM: With George Entwistle’s surprise resignation from the BBC Saturday night in the UK, new emphasis falls on his predecessor, Mark Thompson, who is due to start as the New York Times Co.’s new CEO on Monday. He’s been the focus of New York Times editorials in recent weeks which have raised questions about details of his involvement in the cancellation of the Newsnight piece on accused sex abuser Jimmy Savile, which fell under his watch.
But Entwistle had certainly borne the brunt of criticism to date. Now, it casts the wrong kind of shadow on Thompson’s new employers, who seem likely to address the issue before Thompson takes up his post. Media analyst Ken Doctor thinks it’s “more likely Thompson doesn’t start on Monday than he does,” he tells Deadline. “He could well be dragged into parliamentary hearings and inquiries, and even if there’s no guilt or blame there, it’ll keep that story alive for a series of months.” It’s attention the Times doesn’t want as it hits a high point, journalistically. “They’ve done a lot of work on their digital strategy and can take pride in their coverage of key events like the election.” Doctor says. “They’ve been able to define themselves as the white knight preservers of journalism, untainted by scandal. In the wake of the phone hacking scandal, they could always contrast themselves with the Murdoch empire. But as of Monday they’ll have a CEO who is essentially using a similar defense to James Murdoch,” that he was too busy to know what was going on. The next 36 hours will prove crucial as we learn whether the ongoing scandal threatens another media organization.
Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage
BBC director general George Entwistle was accused of a “lamentable lack of editorial curiosity” as he appeared before a Parliamentary select committee this morning. The two-hour session focused on the scandal engulfing the broadcaster amid rampant sexual abuse allegations against late Top Of The Pops host Jimmy Savile, as well as suggestions of an editorial cover-up by the BBC’s leading investigative journalism program, Newsnight. Entwistle was faced with new pressure to explain why Newsnight‘s report on Savile was dropped last year, even though it delivered serious revelations about the allegations that had not previously been published. “There was clearly some good journalistic material,” he conceded today, adding, “Further investigation would have been appropriate.”
Entwistle left Newsnight editor Peter Rippon to shoulder much of the blame for dropping the December 2011 investigation into Savile. The BBC yesterday corrected Rippon’s version of events surrounding the story’s spiking, and Rippon was suspended pending the results of the BBC’s inquiry into the scandal. (Meanwhile, attorney Dinah Rose, who has acted on behalf of News International in civil phone-hacking claims, will be hired by the BBC to help on the Savile investigation, The Guardian reported.)
Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage.
UPDATE, 6 PM: Trust in the BBC could be irreparably shaken by its actions and inaction surrounding sexual abuse allegations against former host Jimmy Savile, tonight’s report on the BBC investigative series Panorama suggests. As previously detailed, the special report presented new evidence questioning the reasons behind the cancellation of the network’s Newsnight investigation into the late presenter last year. It also interviewed former BBC staff present during Savile’s career on BBC radio and television who spoke of an accepted attitude of rumor and innuendo that left the presenter unchallenged on sex abuse allegations during his life. The BBC must operate with complete transparency to avoid further damage to its reputation, which puts it in an unusual position as its own news programs report on the unfolding scandal. “This Panorama is the BBC at its best,” tweeted radio presenter Iain Dale. “Shame it also reveals the BBC at its very worst.”
PREVIOUS, 5:55 AM: It’s turning into the biggest media scandal to hit Britain since the phone-hacking brouhaha broke wide open last year. Last week, and spurred on by an ITV documentary that aired this month, police said they had identified 400 lines of inquiry and 200 potential victims as part of a formal criminal investigation into alleged sexual abuse of minors by late BBC host Jimmy Savile and others. Today, BBC Newsnight editor Peter Rippon became the first executive to step aside over the corporation’s handling of the situation. Rippon’s suspension comes ahead of a potentially damning report to air tonight on Panorama, another BBC investigative series, about his decision to kill a Newsnight piece on Savile last year.
Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage
UPDATE: The Metropolitan Police has told the BBC it can begin its investigations into the culture and practices at the broadcaster during the time that late TV host Jimmy Savile is alleged to have sexually abused minors. Amid controversy over whether the BBC may have turned a blind eye to Savile’s alleged behavior, the corporation this week appointed independent reviewers to lead the inquiries, but said it would start only when authorities were ready. The police dubbed its own investigation into alleged exploitation by Savile and others, Operation Yewtree, and today says the case has become a formal criminal investigation. The Met says it has now assessed more than 400 lines of inquiry and identified over 200 potential victims. Not all the strands are tied to Savile, however. Without elaborating, the police said it has also established lines of inquiry involving living people that require formal investigation.
PREVIOUS: New BBC director general George Entwistle is to give evidence before a parliamentary committee next week over the BBC’s handling of the allegations against the former Top Of The Pops host Savile. At the same time, the BBC has been doing some juggling amid the recent controversy. Scheduling changes have been made “in the light of sensitivities surrounding recent events,” The Independent reports and talk shows have avoided the subject while “Chinese walls” have been erected over a planned segment on the Savile matter by BBC1′s investigative current affairs show Panorama.
Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage:
Only one month into his tenure, new BBC director general George Entwistle is being tested with a scandal that could have far-reaching implications. The brouhaha involves sexual abuse allegations against a deceased former star host and the corporation’s handling of the situation as far back as the 1970s. Claims against the late Jimmy Savile, one of the BBC’s most beloved presenters for more than three decades on such programs as wish-granting show Jim’ll Fix It and music chart staple Top Of The Pops, include at least 40 potential victims who have come forward. The Metropolitan Police now says its investigations involve 340 lines of inquiry. Entwistle has been criticized for his slow response to the scandal, whose recent revelations indicate the BBC may have turned a blind eye to Savile’s alleged behavior. If the public’s trust in the BBC is breached, the Financial Times points out, “This could impact the scope and financing of the broadcaster over the next decade” while it negotiates a new charter ahead of 2016.
On Friday, Entwistle expressed “a profound and heartfelt apology – on behalf of the BBC – to every victim.” He also said the corporation will hold two independent inquiries into the affair. On the one hand, Entwistle said there will be a review of the “culture and practices of the BBC during the years that Jimmy Savile worked here, and afterwards.” The same inquiry will examine the BBC’s current child protection, whistleblowing, bullying and harassment policies.
BBC Vision director George Entwistle has been appointed by the BBC Trust to take over from outgoing director general Mark Thompson. The public broadcaster, which is in the midst of a belt-tightening phase, will pay Entwistle a £450,000 annual salary. Thompson, who has held the post since 2004, is currently earning £671,000 per year. Thompson announced his departure earlier this year with the search for his replacement heating up recently. Candidates who are understood to have made a shortlist included BBC COO Caroline Thomson and Ed Richards, chief exec of UK regulator Ofcom. Entwistle joined the BBC in 1989 as a broadcast journalist trainee. He has since held various posts including head of current affairs, and been responsible for such programs as Newsnight and investigative magazine Panorama. He has run BBC Vision, the in-house commissioning department, since 2011. In the role of director general, he will be the editorial, operational and creative leader of the BBC. The handover from Thompson to Entwistle will take place in the fall.