Nov.12 - The head of news at the British Broadcasting Corporation stepped aside on Monday after a programme falsely accusing a former senior politician of child abuse sparked one of the worst crises in the publicly-funded broadcaster's 90-year history. Matt Cowan reports.
The British Broadcasting Corporation has seen dark days before, but few like this. Its highly-regarded news division has been ensnared in scandal, its leadership is in flux. This after Director General George Entwistle stepped aside over the weekend in what's being described as one of the worst crises in the BBC's 90 year history. Entwistle had been in the post for less than two months. PTC He'd been labelled incurious George for his lack of information about allegations against the former TV presenter Jimmy Savile but his fate was really sealed after the news program Newsnight ran an item mistakenly linking a senior political figure to child abuse. The two most senior members of BBC News have also stepped aside and the chair of the BBC Trust is calling for a radical overhaul of the British broadcaster. Stewart Purvis is a professor of TV Journalism at London's City University and a former Editor-In-Chief at commercial broadcaster ITN. SOUNDBITE: Stewart Purvis, City University saying (English) "The chairman of the BBC Trust Lord Patten used to be the governor of Hong Kong and he said that there are more managers at the BBC than there are in the Chinese Communist Party, and that's a sort of odd thing to say about your own organization. So he clearly wants something to be done. He clearly was discussing with George Entwistle, before he resigned, what he should do about it. In fact, standing here as I was on Saturday night, he said he was going to implement that anyway so presumably the new Director General whoever he or she is will implement some kind of restructuring plan that George Entwistle signed off before he left." A poll commissioned after the Savile revelations showed that faith in the BBC had been dented, with 47 percent saying it could no longer be trusted. SOUNDBITE: STEPHEN JACOB, SAYING (English): "We used to always rely on the BBC for being factual. If you wanted to watch a news programme you automatically switched to the BBC because you knew they would get it right. But now you wonder whether they are biased SOUNDBITE: JANET DAVIS, SAYING (English): "I think it is a lot of fuss about nothing and I think George Entwistle has been really badly treated, and I think we should value the BBC - it's a fantastic institution." SOUNDBITE: VIEWER, TIM MARSHALL, SAYING (English) : "It needs to be sorted out but I wouldn't say that my confidence in it has been rocked, hugely." Rupert Murdoch's News Corp has been reporting the saga with glee, in both in its broadsheet Sunday Times and tabloid Sun. Questions are now being asked about why a publicly funded broadcaster should give Entwistle a year's salary of 450,000 pounds, when he quit his job after just 54 days. The moves at the BBC come as its former Director General Mark Thompson started a new job as Chief Executive of the New York Times...there have been questions about his role, but he insisted the situation would not be a distraction.