Director Of BBC Northern Ireland Has Confirmed His Involvement In The Newsnight Fiasco
Director of BBC Northern Ireland, Peter Johnston, has confirmed his involvement in decisions regarding the Newsnight investigation that wrongly linked politician Robert McAlpine to child sex abuse in north Wales. An inquiry into the programme, conducted by Director of BBC Scotland Ken MacQuarrie, found “unacceptable failings” by the corporation.
Mr. Johnston has said he is not considering his position and is awaiting further details of the investigation. Senior BBC employees are facing disciplinary action after the corporation admitted the Newsnight programme failed to complete “basic journalistic checks”.
It comes as British Prime Minister David Cameron and Culture Secretary Maria Miller added their voices to growing criticism over the £450,000 pay-off given to former director-general George Entwistle, calling it “hard to justify”. BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten yesterday defended the sum, saying it was “justified and necessary” to allow a clean break and avoid lengthy delays.
The official report into the Newsnight programme by Mr MacQuarrie revealed there was confusion about who had the ultimate responsibility for “final editorial sign-off” on the story that falsely linked Mr McAlpine to a paedophile ring. In the report, he said the programme’s editorial management structure had been “seriously weakened” as a result of the editor having to step aside over the Jimmy Savile scandal. Mr. MacQuarrie said, “During the editorial decision-making process, some of the basic journalistic checks were not completed. The, now infamous, programme featured an interview with Steve Messham, an abuse victim who said a senior political figure of the time abused him. Mr. Messham later admitted he wrongly identified his abuser and apologised.