The BBC director-general has resigned after a Newsnight report wrongly implicated former Conservative Party treasurer Lord McAlpine in a child abuse scandal. George Entwistle said the “wholly exceptional” events of last week had convinced him he should resign. He made the announcement outside New Broadcasting House at 9pm, accompanied by BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten.
Speaking to waiting Journalists, Mr. Entwistle said: “When appointed to the role, with 23 years experience as a producer and leader at the BBC, I was confident the trustees had chosen the best candidate for the post, and the right person to tackle the challenges and opportunities ahead. However, the wholly exceptional events of the past few weeks have led me to conclude that the BBC should appoint a new leader.” Lord Patten said it was “one of the saddest evenings of my public life”. Culture Secretary Maria Miller said it was a “regrettable situation but the right decision”. She added: “It is vital that credibility and public trust in this important national institution is restored. It is now crucial that the BBC puts the systems in place to ensure it can make first class news and current affairs programmes.”
There was some support for Mr Entwistle. Labour former culture secretary Ben Bradshaw described his resignation as a “terrible mistake”. Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman released a statement saying: “George Entwistle’s departure is a great shame. He has been brought low by cowards and incompetents. The real problem here is the BBC’s decision, in the wake of the Hutton Inquiry, to play safe by appointing biddable people. They then compounded the problem by enforcing a series of cuts on programme budgets, while bloating the management. That is how you arrive at the current mess on Newsnight.” When grilled by BBC presenter John Humphrys on Saturday morning about the Newsnight child abuse report, Mr Entwistle admitted he did not know about the investigation until the day after it was broadcast and had not seen newspaper reports casting doubts on the probe. Mr Entwistle, who has been in the post for less than two months, has spent virtually the entire time trying to deal with the repercussions from the Jimmy Savile child abuse scandal.