Wednesday, November 14, 2012

BBC issues apology for false sex abuse report, Entwistle resigns

George Entwistle, director general of the British Broadcasting Corporation, resigned today in light of an erroneous report that implicated a senior politician in a child sex-abuse scandal.

BBC announced Entwistle would take over the public broadcaster in July, and he had spent just 54 days in command.

"In the light of the fact that the director general is also the editor-in-chief and ultimately responsible for all content, and in the light of the unacceptable journalistic standards of the Newsnight film broadcast on Friday 2 November, I have decided that the honorable thing to do is to step down from the post of director general," Entwistle's statement read, according to the BBC.

Lord Chris Patten, the politician in charge of BBC, said it was "one of saddest evenings of my public life," The Telegraph reported.

"George Entwistle has worked for the BBC for 23 years. He exemplifies the finest values of public service broadcasting," Patten said, according to The Telegraph. "He has behaved as editor with huge honor and courage and would that the rest of the world always behaved the same.”

The 50-year-old Entwistle's sudden resignation comes after BBC issued an apology earlier today. The BBC aired the false report on its popular Newsnight program and did not name the abuser, but said that it was a senior member of the Tory government, CNN reported.

Internet speculation swirled about who the abuser might be and prompted former Conservative Party treasurer Lord McAlpine to issue a statement denying any involvement.

McAlpine called the claims "wholly false and seriously defamatory."

The BBC reported that a victim, Steve Messham, apologized to the former treasurer and admitted that he did not assault him.

Entwistle said he would not cancel the popular news show and said he did not know about the investigation until the day after it was broadcast, Britain's Sky News said.

He said the news program had "a fantastic investigative record" but that the report on child abuse allegations was "unacceptable" and "should never have gone out."

"We should not have put out a film that was so fundamentally wrong. What happened here was completely unacceptable," he said. "I have taken clear and decisive action to start to find out what happened and put things right."

Entwistle also suggested that staff involved in the episode could face disciplinary action.

It's another embarrassing incident for the British broadcaster in an already-difficult year. The BBC is facing another scandal over how it handled the sexual abuse allegations against the late TV presenter Jimmy Savile.

Two inquiries are being launched looking into why the abuse went undetected for decades and also why the same Newsnight program canceled an investigation into Savile and instead broadcast two tribute programs celebrating his charity work, reports CNN.