* BBC director general quits two months into job
* BBC chairman denounces shoddy journalism
By Michael Holden
LONDON, Nov 10 BBC Director General George
Entwistle resigned on Saturday, just two months into the job,
after the state-funded broadcaster put out a programme denounced
by the corporation's chairman as shoddy journalism.
The BBC, reeling from revelations that one of its former
stars was a paedophile, brought further problems on its head
when a flagship news programme aired a mistaken allegation that
a former senior politician sexually abused children.
The BBC had already issued a full apology on Friday, but on
Saturday its director general had to admit under questioning
from his own journalists that he had not known in advance about
the Newsnight report, weeks after being accused of being too
hands-off over the previous scandal on the same programme.
Accepting Entwistle's resignation, BBC Trust chairman Lord
Patten said: "This is undoubtedly one of the saddest evenings of
my public life.
"At the heart of the BBC is its role as a trusted global
"As the editor-in-chief of that organisation, George has
very honourably offered us his resignation because of the
unacceptable mistakes -- the unacceptable shoddy journalism --
which has caused us so much controversy."
Entwistle quit after strong criticism over the Newsnight
"I listened to the director general with increasing
disbelief," John Whittingdale, chairman of parliament's powerful
media committee, told Reuters. "The level of failure of
management at every level within the BBC, up to and including
the director general, is just extraordinary."
The BBC and its bosses have been under huge pressure since a
rival broadcaster carried charges last month that the late Jimmy
Savile, one of the most recognisable personalities on British
television in the 1970s and 80s, was a prolific sex offender.
Suggestions have surfaced of a paedophile ring inside the
broadcaster at the time and a BBC cover-up. To complicate
matters for Entwistle, Newsnight pulled a planned expose of
Savile shortly after his death last year, and the BBC went ahead
with tribute shows.
Having been widely criticised for not broadcasting that
expose, which led to its editor stepping aside, Newsnight is now
being lambasted for its Nov. 2 report on sexual abuse at
children's care homes in North Wales during the 1970s.
Steve Messham, a witness, told Newsnight that a senior
Conservative had raped him when he was a child in one of the
Newsnight did not identify the politician, but the name of
Alistair McAlpine, Conservative Party treasurer from 1975 to
1990 during Margaret Thatcher's premiership, quickly appeared on
the Internet and social media sites.
On Friday, McAlpine went public to rigorously deny the
allegations and threaten legal action.
Hours later, Messham said he had misidentified McAlpine to
Newsnight. The programme admitted it had not approached McAlpine
for a comment, or shown Messham a picture of McAlpine, before
airing the report.
Castigated for what he agreed was a slow response to the
Savile disclosures, Entwistle demanded a report on the incident
by Sunday and suspended all Newsnight investigations.
The erroneous Newsnight report had been cleared by senior
managers and lawyers, and commentators queried why Entwistle had
been kept in the dark in the wake of the furore over Savile.