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Tuesday, November 13, 2012
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Mistaken Child Abuse Report Row

BBC news head, deputy quit

Helen Boaden

The BBC's director of news, Helen Boaden, and her deputy, Stephen Mitchell, have "stepped aside" as the fallout from the Newsnight scandal continues.

BBC confirmed Boaden and Mitchell were stepping away from day-to-day management of BBC News yesterday morning, as the corporation was facing widespread criticism after it emerged that George Entwistle, who resigned as director general late on Saturday, will receive a full year's salary of 450,000 in lieu of notice -- despite only being in the job for 54 days.

Boaden will be replaced on a temporary basis by Fran Unsworth, head of the BBC newsroom. The Radio 4 Today programme editor Ceri Thomas will take over Mitchell's deputy role in an acting capacity.

Yesterday's announcement came after Ken MacQuarrie, director of BBC Scotland, reported his findings into the Newsnight story on 2 November that mistakenly linked a Conservative peer to allegations of child sexual abuse.

In a statement, BBC said Boaden and Mitchell were stepping aside: "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."

"Helen Boaden has decided that she is not in a position to undertake this responsibility until the Pollard review has concluded.

"Consideration is now being given to the extent to which individuals should be asked to account further for their actions and if appropriate, disciplinary action will be taken."

Boaden and Mitchell were already "recused" from Savile-related coverage -- including the 2 November Newsnight report -- because of their involvement in the handling of the BBC2's current affairs programme's abandoned Jimmy Savile sex abuse investigation in late 2011.

Former head of Sky News Nick Pollard is leading an inquiry into management's handling of that story.

BBC yesterday said it wanted to make "absolutely clear" that Boaden and Mitchell had nothing to do with the November 2 Newsnight report.

"Whilst recognising this, the BBC also believes there is a lack of clarity in the lines of command and control in BBC News as a result of some of those caught up in the Pollard review being unable to exercise their normal authority.

"In the circumstances Helen and Stephen will be stepping aside from their normal roles until the Pollard review reports and they expect to then return to their positions."

Earlier, Entwistle resigned as director general, just two months into the job, to take responsibility for the child sex allegation on news programme Newsnight.

The witness in the Newsight report, who says he suffered sexual abuse at a care home in the late 1970s, said on Friday he had misidentified the politician, Alistair McAlpine.

Newsnight admitted it had not shown the witness McAlpine's picture, or approached McAlpine for comment before going to air, reports Reuters.

Under the terms of his contract, Entwistle was entitled to only six months' pay, but the trust said the additional payment had been agreed as a reflection of his continuing involvement with the various BBC inquiries under way.

The move was greeted with anger and disbelief by MPs. The chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport committee, John Whittingdale, said the trust had to explain how it could justify such a large payoff.

Harriet Harman, the shadow secretary of state for culture, media and sport, said: "It is not justifiable for the BBC to pay double the contractually required sum to the director general on his resignation. It looks like a reward for failure.

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BTV execs are laughing about BBC's childishness!

: rch

 

 


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