15 November 2012, 18:47

Lord McAlpine: sex abuse allegations “complete rubbish”

Lord McAlpine: sex abuse allegations “complete rubbish”

Lord Alistair McAlpine, a former British politician who was wrongly implicated in child sexual abuse by the BBC “Newsnight” program was quoted on Thursday saying that the allegation was “complete rubbish”.

The former treasurer of the Conservative Party was not identified by name in the Nov2 edition of the program, but it triggered accusations on the Internet relating to a decades-old abuse case at a children’s home near Wrexham in North Wales.

The BBC has acknowledged that Lord McAlpine was not contacted by “Newsnight” to comment on the allegation. His accuser, Steve Messham, a former resident of the children’s home, has withdrawn his accusation and apologized.

“Of course they should have called me and I would have told them exactly what they learnt later on,” Lord McAlpine said in excerpts from the interview posted on the BBC Web site. “That it was complete rubbish and that I’d only ever been to Wrexham once in my life. They could have saved themselves a lot of agonizing and money, actually, if they’d just made that telephone call.”

Lord McAlpine is now seeking a financial settlement with the BBC and redress from anyone who impugned his reputation either in the media or on the Internet.

The scandal forced the resignation of BBC’s director general, George Entwistle.

Voice of Russia, New York Times

BBC going through crisis of purpose and identity - McShane

Denis MacShane, former British Labour Minnister, shared his opinion with the Voice of Russia on the reasons for the BBC decay and talks about how the image of the company may recover.

British public institutions – whether it’s parliament, it’s government, it’s police, it’s media – seem to be going through a very big crisis of purpose and identity and the bad, bad mistakes that some journalists made by making allegations about now long retired politician that he was a pedophile is a symptom, I think, of this malaise. But the BBC as a whole is a very important, trusted world broadcaster and I’m sure it’ll come through this crisis.

But I’m sure that in the aftermath the public image of the company will be hurt pretty much by the scandal. How soon do you think they will recover?

BBC will recover very quickly if it returns to what is basic in its purposes, which is to provide very accurate and honest information. There is no other broadcaster in the world that is so unbiased or on the whole takes more care over the information it broadcast, whether it on World TV News or BBC World Service or domestic news. This was a very, very single big era by one editor and he will pay a price. And indeed it’s to the honour of the BBC that its director general, who knew nothing about the program, that he accepts responsibility. How many times do TV programs in Russia, or France, or America, or Al Jazeera, or any of them put out wrong information and then the actual boss of the whole organization resigns? That I think is to a tribute to the way that BBC is taking this seriously and will deal with it honourably rather than playing people further down the chain of editorial hierarchy.

Settlement between BBC and McAlpine probable

A settlement between Alistair McAlpine, a high-ranking Conservative politician of Margaret Thatcher’s times, wrongly implicating to child sex abuse occurred in Wales decades ago, and the BBC is probable, McAlpine’s lawyer Andrew Reid said.

The BBC has already apologized to McAlpine for the accusations claimed in a report broadcast during the BBC Newsnight program November 2. The mistaken report led to the resignation of the BBC director general.

McAlpine told BBC Radio 4 on Thursday that BBC never contacted him to try to verify the report, otherwise “they could have saved themselves a lot of agonizing, and money.”

UK regulator probes BBC, ITV on abuse programmes

Britain's media regulator said on Thursday it had started investigations into the airing of child abuse allegations by the BBC and ITV.

The BBC and ITV have both started their own disciplinary proceedings after false allegations were aired earlier this month against a leading Conservative Party figure from the 1980s who has threatened to sue for damages.

"The first (investigation) relates to a Newsnight report broadcast on 2 November into child sex abuse allegations," Ofcom said in a statement.

"The second relates to the disclosure of a list of individuals alleged to be linked to child sex abuse on ITV's This Morning, broadcast on 8 November," it added in a statement.

Voice of Russia, RT, Reuters

'BBC going through crisis of purpose and identity'

Sergey Duz

Director General of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) George Entwistle has resigned after just 54 days in office amid a scandal over unverified child abuse allegations that proved to be wrong. Mr Entwistle, who took office the middle of September, became the shortest-serving BBC chief.

Earlier, the BBC Newsnight program alleged that an unnamed high-ranking Conservative politician of Margaret Thatcher’s times was implicated in child sex abuse. The man was soon identified on the Internet as Lord Alistair McAlpine. The latter angrily rejected the allegations and threatened with a defamation lawsuit. The next day, Entwistle publicly acknowledged that the report had not been checked and offered apologies on the part of the BBC.

The scandal came on the heels of sensational revelations that a popular BBC host, Jimmy Savile, who died last autumn at the age of 84, had abused underage teens for years. Newsnight prepared a special edition on Savile’s child abuse, but it never went on the air. So it did seem to many that on the one hand the BBC was covering up real criminals, while on the other it was wrongfully defaming decent people.

Unfortunately, Entwistle fell hostage to the situation that had shaped long before he took over as BBC director general. A former BBC employee, Konstantin Eggert, told the Voice of Russia that a reform of the BBC is long overdue. He believes that the trouble with the BBC is that it is poorly adapted to the realities of the modern media market.

"On the one hand, BBC should be absolutely unbiased and thoroughly check all its sources. Even when it conducts journalist probes it should stick to serious regulations stipulated by its basics, including the Royal Charter.

On the other hand, BBC faces competition with other media which is quite tough. Adherence to strict rules on sensations will limit the Corporation’s competitiveness.

Thus, BBC somehow wanted to use the child abuse scandal which is underway in the UK.

Its flagship Newsnight, similar to Russian current affairs programs, wanted to conduct its own investigation but, in my opinion, it hastened.

Thus, Mr Entwistle’s quit is quite an adequate reaction to the situation."

The British public reacts very sensitively to any scandal surrounding the BBC because the company is being financed through a so-called annual license fee paid by every Brit who owns a TV set. In other words, almost every British family is a kind of BBC sponsor. The level of the fee is set by the government, but its real cost is being pushed down by inflation. Two years ago, Prime Minister David Cameron decided to freeze the license fee, motivating his decision by economic crisis. Combined with other spending cuts, it may slash BBC financing by nearly 25% over four years. In short, the desperately needed reforms are being hampered by a mere lack of funds.

One cannot but feel pity for George Entwistle. He behaved like a gentleman, driven by his own sense of responsibility the way he saw it. But emotions left aside, the British government should share the blame. Because of Premier Cameron’s stinginess, Britain risks losing its number one broadcaster with an 85-year-old history, which has become a national symbol and a stronghold of independent and competent journalism.

BBC going through crisis of purpose and identity - McShane

Denis MacShane, former British Labour Minnister, shared his opinion with the Voice of Russia on the reasons for the BBC decay and talks about how the image of the company may recover.

British public institutions – whether it’s parliament, it’s government, it’s police, it’s media – seem to be going through a very big crisis of purpose and identity and the bad, bad mistakes that some journalists made by making allegations about now long retired politician that he was a pedophile is a symptom, I think, of this malaise. But the BBC as a whole is a very important, trusted world broadcaster and I’m sure it’ll come through this crisis.

But I’m sure that in the aftermath the public image of the company will be hurt pretty much by the scandal. How soon do you think they will recover?

BBC will recover very quickly if it returns to what is basic in its purposes, which is to provide very accurate and honest information. There is no other broadcaster in the world that is so unbiased or on the whole takes more care over the information it broadcast, whether it on World TV News or BBC World Service or domestic news. This was a very, very single big era by one editor and he will pay a price. And indeed it’s to the honour of the BBC that its director general, who knew nothing about the program, that he accepts responsibility. How many times do TV programs in Russia, or France, or America, or Al Jazeera, or any of them put out wrong information and then the actual boss of the whole organization resigns? That I think is to a tribute to the way that BBC is taking this seriously and will deal with it honourably rather than playing people further down the chain of editorial hierarchy.

Journalism standards slipping - expert

Yekaterina Kudashkina

Charlie Beckett, a media expert with the London School of Economics, speaks on the recent scandal that has shaken Britain's traditional broadcaster BBC and changes we might see in journalism

This latest crisis is certainly not the first time. Like any good journalistic organization the BBC has in the past had clashes with Government, it had clashes with companies or individuals because that’s the nature of good journalism. But in this case it was actually the journalism itself that was at fault. And it wasn’t just that there was particular mad mistake made, I mean that was bad enough, but there was a sense that the management system of editorial decision making at the BBC wasn’t working properly – that they didn’t take up on the risks involved, they didn’t oversee standards properly and then when things went wrong they didn’t respond properly to that either. So, you can see that in that sense Chris Patten is right that it is worth looking at the way the BBC runs internally as well as just trying to find out which journalist made a mistake.

As the member of the trade I can see that journalism standards are generally becoming lower everywhere across the globe, in the eastern and the western parts of the world. But the reforms are always a painful process. If we are talking about the decision making within the BBC – this system has operated during the best times of the corporation. Perhaps it would need something less than just playing reforming.

Well, I think that actually there is a lot of terrific journalism out there in the world. You only have to read great magazines like the Economist. And there is a lot of choice out there and now we’ve got Al Jazeera, people like the Voice of Russia as well as the big traditional companies like the BBC. But the BBC, like all of the journalists today, is facing an upheaval because of new media, because of political pressure, because of economic pressure. It is facing cutbacks in its budget and is having to doubt this whole new media environment. So, it is not surprising that in this time of change sometimes standards are going to slip. And there is a fear that overall standards will slip if people have their budgets reduced too much or if there is too much pressure on people to make a profit. So, I think one of the key tasks for the BBC is to make sure that journalistic standards right across the board, not just for investigative journalism, are maintained.

To think of the short term – we are going to see quite a few faces being changed, we are going to see new people coming in. And I think that would be one of the best things if the BBC was able to bring in people from outside because a lot of people understand that the BBC worked all their lives, they love the place and they aren’t doing it just for the money – they do it because they believe in what they are doing, they believe in that kind of objective journalism. But there is a danger that you do get at closed system. So, I think it would be great if the BBC could try and bring in more people to all levels, but especially in the leadership who have got a more critical perspective and fresh ideas.

Feeling of incompetence growing inside BBC

Yekaterina Kudashkina

Former BBC journalist Stephen Dalziel talks on the internal crisis widening inside BBC

It is certainly not the first scandal that the BBC has faced. But I would suggest it is actually the most serious that it’s faced. When you effectively accuse a former Government minister of something as serious as child abuse – wouldn’t it be crazy? Not always certainly because we are alking about sex abuse of children here and that’s what the accusation was. And that is a very very serious accusation because that can destroy someone’s reputation. And even if it is not true people think that there is no smoke without fire. So, this is a very serious offence the BBC has committed. So, the fact that it is so serious means that they do have to do something now.

But it is, as you say, not the first time there’s been a problem. And I think it shows a growing feeling inside the BBC of carelessness, of incompetence. I worked on the BBC for 16 years, from 1988 to 2004, and even then there used to be a half-joke, because there was always some truth in it, that bosses were always promoted two levels above their level of competency. Unfortunately, you do get a lot of incompetent bosses on the BBC because there is a relative low pay ceiling if you are a journalist or a producer. And you may be very good at that, you may be a very good journalist, you may be a very good producer but maybe you want to go on to make more money. And the only way you could earn more money on the BBC if you weren’t one of the top star presenters, the only way you could earn more money would be going to management.

Now, you may be a very good journalist but that certainly doesn’t qualify you as a good manager and you probably weren’t properly trained as a manager either. And so, I can remember a number of my bosses at the BBC whom I’ve known as journalists who then switched to being managers. And they were awful. And now I’ve worked in the private sector in business as well as on the BBC and I can make comparisons. And what tends to happen to the private sector – you used to get some bad managers but they tend to get sacked. On the BBC they genuinely do tend to get moved up. It is rather like, I’ll give a comparison, like Boris Yeltsin’s Government in Russia in the 1990’es. They often removed people from certain posts and very few of them were then just kicked out completely. They were shuffled around, they were put somewhere else. And I think this comparison is quite well actually with the way things work at the BBC.

And we often hear when there are these scandals, either in the media or in many public institutions, of organizational reform, structural reform, some sort of systematic reform. Is it something that is really about personalities or is it something in the process and the procedures of how managers are assessed, how they are chosen? Or is it very much a culture in the institution?

I think it is a bit of a mixture of all those. And I think that the BBC really does need to look to the way it finds and appoints its managers. I think taking many of them from their own ranks, who have been journalists or producers, studio managers perhaps, I think this kind of underlines and I’ve certainly realized that for a long term it doesn’t necessarily work. You want who’ve got managerial experience and if you are going to pay them large sums of money, then you need to pay them for managerial skills which don’t come cheap and that’s fair enough.

I think there is another very important element that should be considered here and that is that the BBC, I would put it as strongly as saying – suffering from developments in modern media which have led it to drop to some of its previously cast iron standards. When I joined the BBC, I was in the World Service, and I think the World Service was always very strict on standards. I joined back in 1988. And for example as a rule – if you were writing something for the radio, and particularly because we were then were talking much about radio and I went to do a lot of television afterwards, but if you were writing a script to the person who’s just given an interview, then you would always get what we called “the second pair of eyes”. You get someone else to look at it because even if you write well and you know your subject, sometimes you write things that make a certain assumption that the general listener or viewer might not know, so you get someone else to look at it so that they can say – what do you mean by that. And little things like that but important things to make sure that what went out was only truthful and accurate but clear.

And I think things like that have been lost. And one of the biggest problems, as you said that they are the victims of modern media, is because you now get so much pressure and the speed of media has increased incredibly because you’ve got 24 hour news and you’ve got breaking news. And when I was there we had an email coming around one day from the head of News Gathering, News Gathering was the organization which, and the name suggests it, gathered news for all parts of the BBC. And then the News Gathering wrote saying how wonderful it was that the BBC TV had got on the air with the story 30 seconds ahead of Sky TV. The only person who is going to know that is some TV executive sitting in an office with the bank of televisions in front of him. I actually had this conversation with a lot of people at the time and they said – hang on, it is not about speed, it is about accuracy and it is far more important. I don’t care whether the Sky gets there an hour before the BBC does as long as the BBC gets it right.

And that sort of mentality has come in and as I say it is not entirely the BBC’s fault but I think that they ought to take a step back and say that actually it should be about standards here. And it is used to be the case also when I worked for the BBC. My title was Russian Affairs Analyst and we had a department within News Gathering in World Service which employed specialists on certain parts of the world. So, I covered Russia, we had an American specialist, we had a Chinese specialist and African specialist, Indian specialist, defense correspondent, diplomatic correspondent. And so we were there and the correspondent on the ground might say this has happened. And then we come to ask for an analysis of why it happened – and because we were specialists, that’s what we were doing all the time, we knew this subject.

My pose was closed in 2004 that’s why I left the BBC. And I said – look I do Russia and I’ll carry on doing Russian and that’s why I went in the business involved with Russia. But it is that coming down of broadcasting, far more important it seems now just to get the story out and actually if you make a few mistakes, if you don’t get the in-depth analysis or it doesn’t really matter as long as we got that first – and that I think is terrible. And I hope, I can’t say I’ll hold my breath on this, but I hope as a result of all this the BBC might actually go back and look at standards across the corporation and say – what are we doing and how are we doing it.

To do that the BBC must be confronting two major trends. One trend is, like you said, something that it should reconsider approaches. But those approaches are general. On the other hand there is another trend which implies that managers should be managers regardless of the trade they are operating in, I mean professional standards of trade are not really considered to be the dominant consideration when they are appointing top managers to a company. Well, you know what I’m talking about, definitely. So, do you think that the BBC might be fit to counter those two major trends?

I just wish that it would have the courage to do it. I hear exactly what you are saying and I agree, I mean that the phrase “coming down” I think can be applied across media and across all media organizations. And I think it is a great shame, I mean I very rarely read a newspaper in Britain now because whereas a few years ago I knew I’d get good journalism and while written it’ll be accurate and now it is so much sensationism, the cult to the celebrities and so on. All I can but regret that.

But I think in terms of the BBC News, the BBC should have the courage, and it is a question of courage to take exactly what you said and say – hang on, we are the BBC, we are the benchmark, we are the oldest broadcasting organization in the world, we are the most respected broadcasting organization in the world, we are the best known broadcasting organization in the world and we have a duty to ourselves and our listeners and viewers therefore to maintain the higher standards. And if that means that we are slightly slower with the news but we get it right, but we provide people with analysis that we put actually into a good context, then so be it. That should be the priority.

And I just wish that if the new bosses coming in or indeed the present ones should take a long hard look at themselves and say – this is what we should be about, we shouldn’t just be about competing with that 30 seconds we-were-there-first but we should be about getting it right and making sure that people trust us and turn to us for news when something happens.

True! And the BBC is not really bound by considerations of profit making, is it?

No, it is not. And quite right that it shouldn’t be.

Which definitely gives a lot of competitive advantage.

And certainly the program in question – the News Night – this is sort of one of the forefront, if you like, sometimes of the regular investigative programs. So, certainly you need people that are going to make those daring decisions and being able to broadcast those things. And it is in a way quite ironic…

But it is about facts checking.

Yes, but in one sense they were being castigated for not broadcasting something about Jimmy Savile and they were castigated for broadcasting something inaccurate about the MP in North Wales. So, it seems to be that you need a very strong sort of system to be able to make those judgment clauses accurately and people with the courage to backup their judgment and to be able to do that.

You do. And I think it shows that there are the two opposites they’ve had with news and it just shows what a mess the situation has got into. What I’m afraid is going to happen, I mean at the same time I hope they’d have the courage to do, but what I’m afraid is going to happen is that they will take a far too heavy handed approach. And so you would see as a result actually weak and boring and uninteresting journalism because people will be too afraid to try and be bold and actually ask challenging questions, they’ll feel that the boss above them will say – oh no, we can’t touch that, that is too risky.

What they need to do is, in the case of the North Wales child abuse program all they had to do was actually go to the person who effectively was being accused of this before they broadcasted. You take your sources, that is who is saying this, and then one of the simple things to do is just show the man who had been or claims to being abused by someone show him the photos and say – is this a man who did it – because as soon as he saw a photo he said – no, it wasn’t him. And that is very simple to check your sources, I mean that should be the foundation of any news organization for their broadcasting, unless it is some sort of completely rubbish newspaper.

But if just purely theoretically, could it be that in this particular case a journalist took every precaution but then the witness was intimidated somehow?

It is not beyond the possibility but I think that the fact that the witness came out very quickly and having seen the photograph said – oh, no – and apologized. And he apologized apparently quite freely, I mean we don’t know of other things. But in any case the fact that they didn’t then check with Lord McAlpine and said – excise me, this is an implication, it is going to go out in a program and have you anything to say – that would have saved a lot of embracement and some people’s jobs.

As I said earlier, this is such a damning condemnation and such an awful accusation to make that with things like that you have to make sure that you are absolutely right. It is not just getting a figure wrong, you know. Was it ten billion or was it twenty billion for some business story? This is a person’s reputation being put on the line. And I would be not at all surprised if he does go ahead and sue the BBC and sue the journalist himself because of this “no smoke without fire” some people will still be thinking – but why was he mentioned in the first place – which is a terrible thing to happen. So, that is a question of basic journalistic standards which it wouldn’t have been difficult to check.

Absolutely! But this is just the implication of the general trend when information has been devalued.

It is. But I think there is also another problem, I mean actually the journalists who made the story were working on contract for the BBC. They weren’t actually the BBC journalists, it was an independent production company. But they seem to being imbued with another thing which I would call it a problem, some people might say it is an issue, but I would say it is a problem at the BBC, and particularly at the BBC television for many years – and that is that there is a long being assessment arrogance about the BBC television.

I used to describe it when I worked for the BBC as saying – if you walk into Bush House which was then, sadly no longer, but then the home of the World Service – you would find that the atmosphere was very friendly and if you look lost someone will come up to you and say – excuse me, hello! Can I help you? Whereas when you walk into the Television Center, and it is still the case, you walk in TV Center and you see people that look away from looking at you and it is kind of – who the hell are you? And there is a certain arrogance to certain BBC journalists, and particularly in television or in Domestic Radio.

By the way, this is really a very bad trap which people tend to undervalue too. This is something which I think results in this type of blunders which are absolutely stupid.

I fully agree! This is the trouble. Once you start thinking that you know better than anyone else – that’s when you become careless, you don’t check your sources. While this whole affair has saddened me greatly because having worked for the BBC, I mean I had a fantastic time for 16 years, I worked with some wonderful and very creative and intelligent people and the organization is still close to my heart in many way. So, I’ve got no pleasure in any way at all as of it, it saddened me greatly that this has happened. Whilst I could have pinpointed it to being this particular story, in some way it doesn’t surprise me – and that’s the unfortunate thing. It doesn’t surprise because of, as I say, a combination of the pressure of 24 hour news, the arrogance of certain BBC journalists and also incompetent bosses throughout the organization, I’m afraid.

Well, I hope this brings you at least some relief to know that this is a universal situation.

Not really, to be honest. I just wish that people would have the courage anywhere, be it Russia or Britain or anywhere, to actually say – don’t forget the quality, don’t forget standards. I mean I hate the cult of celerity, I very rarely watch television these days. It normally has to involve 22 Manchester footballers around the field for me to watch the television. Television potentially is the most wonderful medium for educating people, for bringing something new into people’s lives and far too often it is used to the lowest common denominator.

BBC Chief resigned after false sex abuse claim

This weekend saw the resignation of the BBC's Director General - the only recently appointed George Entwistle. Mr. Entwistle resigned following a broadcast which falsely accused a Conservative peer of child abuse. It's all part of the internal fall-out within the BBC concerning the journalistic standards applied to the complex allegations surrounding the TV presenter Jimmy Saville. The whole affair has raised important issues about standards in journalism and the effect of rumours spreading on social media.

As head of the BBC George Entwistle was also its editor-in-chief and it was under his ages that an award-winning news program called Newsnight broadcast allegations linking a senior political man to a pedophile ring in North Wales. Unfortunately, the Newsnight journalist made a serious mistake. They didn’t corroborate the evidence which lead to Lord McAlpine, a former treasurer of the Conservative Party, being labeled as “a pedophile”. Advanced publicity for the Newsnight report led to a flurrying speculation on the Internet and social media, which led many people to believe that Lord McAlpine was guilty of child abuse. This is now known to be completely untrue. Apart from the internal damage this has done to BBC’s reputation, the case is also calling into question the legal issues surrounding social media. Well-known journalists at the Guardian and ITN and personalities, including the wife of the House of Commons Speaker repeated the slander on Twitter. Charlie Beckett has 20 years’ experience of international journalism at BBC and ITN’s channel for news and is director of the Department of Media Communications at the London School of Economics.

On this story the fault was nothing to do with social media. The fault was made by traditional journalist. And, of course, all journalists, including me have made mistakes in the past. The trouble is that this one was particularly colossal thing to get wrong. Journalism is all about getting your facts and then communicating it to somebody else.

David Banks is a journalist and media law expert.

Most of news organizations wouldn’t find themselves in a situation like this. If you are carrying serious allegations against someone, you have to prove it, you confront them with allegations to make and you see what they’ve got to say. Why it didn’t happen in this situation – I don’t know. The target of these allegations wasn’t followed through.

Charlie Beckett explains why the story is so complex.

You really do need to make sure that you’ve got your facts, not just to your satisfaction, but so that you can prove other people that what you’re saying is true. You have to be quite tough on your own story. And then, of course, you have to be honest enough to go to the person you’re accusing of something and say to them, “Look, is this true or now?” And you have to let them make their case, because you may be wrong. This story got even more complicated, because it was linker to social media.

The editor of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has also left his job, because he commented on Twitter before the broadcast that Newsnight is going to link a senior political figure with pedophilia. Patrick Smith is editor and analyst at The Media Briefing.

They should have been sure of their facts, check them and name the person or they should have found out what the actual story was. It seems to be that they’ve done a little bit of neither. They’ve actually ended up implicating an innocent man without any evidence at all. The trouble is that they tried to hype by saying, “We’re going to name someone later,” which instinctively got everyone thinking about who it is. And it didn’t take people very long to find out who it might be, Philip Schofield made a list of people he got from the Internet within three minutes. I’m not even sure that social media is to blame here. I think it’s old-fashioned journalistic values. You should be sure of your facts before you publish and Twitter is publishing! With traditional news gathering, there’s a chain of command. That turns completely on its head, when a journalist can say something directly to the audience in the matter of seconds. And it takes just a couple of thumb-clicks to potentially label somebody. That’s something really new. If I was in charge at the BBC or other big news organization, I’d be having a chat right around now to moralize everybody about those risks.

Media law expert David Banks says it’s very difficult to legally control what takes place on social media.

It’s one of the main challenges. Earlier the process publishing was in hands of very relatively narrow group of media organizations, publishers, broadcasters. And the fact now is that it has democratized. Now publication is in hands of millions of people. It changes the way in which disinformation laws are being looked at. Parliament should look at it and amend it. That’s going to be very difficult, and there’ll be a lot of hostility infusing legal controls on what people can talk about in social media.

It’s understood, Lord McAlpine is considering seeking damages from the BBC and suing people who named him on Twitter.

Is a 450,000 pound payout too much?

British MPs consider unreasonable the 450,000 pound payout to BBC Director General George Entwistle who stepped down last Saturday due to a scandal about the Newsnight programme in which well-known politician Lord Alistair McAlpine was wrongly accused of pedophilia.

John Whittingdale, the head of the Conservative faction in Parliament, asked the BBC Board of Trustees to explain why they found this size of payout reasonable. This request was supported by Harriet Harman, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party.

BBC director of news and deputy step aside

The two most senior figures at BBC News stepped aside on Monday a day after the chairman of the broadcaster's governing body said it needed a radical overhaul to survive a child sex abuse scandal, it said.

Helen Boaden, the director of BBC News, and her deputy Steve Mitchell, stepped aside two days after the director general quit to take the blame for the airing of false child sex abuse allegations against a former politician.

The BBC's press office said it could not yet confirm the news but the BBC said on its news website that there would be an announcement later in the day.

The development is the latest blow to the corporation, which has been thrown into turmoil by revelations about a historic child sex abuse scandal and the broadcaster's problems with reporting the issue.

George Entwistle resigned as general director on Saturday, just two months into the job, to take responsibility for a report aired by the flagship Newsnight programme which wrongly accused a former politician of also being involved in child abuse.

Chris Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, said on Sunday that he would work quickly to find a replacement for Entwistle while leading a radical overhaul of the corporation.

BBC Chief Entwistle’s paycheck rises doubts among UK media officials

The BBC Trust on Sunday approved a £450,000 pay-off for Mr Entwistle, equal to a full year’s salary, saying it reflected the fact that he would “continue to help on BBC business”, including two inquiries into the Savile affair.

John Whittingdale, chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport committee, said he wanted an explanation of the payment. “A lot of people will be very surprised that somebody who was in the job for such a short period of time and then had to leave in these circumstances should be walking away with £450,000 of licence fee payers’ money,” he told the Press Association.

Lord Patten, the former chairman of the Conservative party, said he would not respond to calls for his resignation that had appeared in some Sunday newspapers.

“I think my job is to make sure that we now learn the lessons from the crisis,” he said. “If I don’t do that and don’t restore huge confidence and trust in the BBC then I’m sure people will tell me to take my cards and clear off,” he said. “But I will not take my marching orders from Mr Murdoch’s newspapers.”

'BBC must reform or face uncertain future' (VIDEO)

Britain's BBC must undergo a radical overhaul in the wake of "shoddy" journalism which led to the resignation of its chief or its future will be in doubt, the head of the state-funded broadcaster's governing body said on Sunday.

Chris Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, said opponents of the BBC, especially Rupert Murdoch's media empire, would take advantage of the turmoil to up the pressure on its long-term rival.

"If you're saying, does the BBC need a thorough structural radical overhaul, then absolutely it does and that is what we will have to do," Patten, a one-time senior figure in Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party and the last British governor of Hong Kong, told BBC TV.

BBC Director General George Entwistle resigned late on Saturday just two months into the job, after the corporation's flagship news programme aired mistaken allegations of child sex abuse against a former leading politician.

Already under pressure after revelations that a long-time star presenter had been a paedophile, Entwistle quit saying the unacceptable standards of the Newsnight report had damaged the public's confidence in the 90-year-old BBC.

"As the director general of the BBC, I am ultimately responsible for all content as the editor-in-chief, and I have therefore decided that the honourable thing for me to do is to step down," he said.

Patten joined critics who said a complex hierarchical management structure at the BBC was partly to blame. One of the BBC's most prominent journalists Jeremy Paxman, a Newsnight presenter, said in recent years, management had become bloated while cash was cut from programme budgets.

"He (Entwistle) has been brought low by cowards and incompetents," Paxman said in a statement.

Patten, in charge of finding a successor to sort out the turmoil at an institution affectionately known as "Auntie", said changes needed to be made after describing the Newsnight journalism as "shoddy".

BBC director of news and deputy step aside

The two most senior figures at BBC News stepped aside on Monday a day after the chairman of the broadcaster's governing body said it needed a radical overhaul to survive a child sex abuse scandal, it said.

Helen Boaden, the director of BBC News, and her deputy Steve Mitchell, stepped aside two days after the director general quit to take the blame for the airing of false child sex abuse allegations against a former politician.

The BBC's press office said it could not yet confirm the news but the BBC said on its news website that there would be an announcement later in the day.

The development is the latest blow to the corporation, which has been thrown into turmoil by revelations about a historic child sex abuse scandal and the broadcaster's problems with reporting the issue.

George Entwistle resigned as general director on Saturday, just two months into the job, to take responsibility for a report aired by the flagship Newsnight programme which wrongly accused a former politician of also being involved in child abuse.

Chris Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, said on Sunday that he would work quickly to find a replacement for Entwistle while leading a radical overhaul of the corporation.

BBC Director-General resigns over misguided Newsnight broadcast

In a statement Mr Entwistle said: "I have decided that the honourable thing to do is to step down." Earlier, Mr Entwistle said the BBC Television program Newsnight, which wrongly implicated a former conservative politician, Lord McAlpine, in a child sex abuse scandal, should never have been broadcast.

The program covered cases of child abuse at North Wales child care homes. Mr Entwistle took up the post of director general on 17 September.

In his statement, Mr Entwistle, who was appointed to the post less than two months ago, said: "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 honourable thing to do is to step down from the post of director general."

The offending Newsnight program came on the heels of the Jimmy Savile crisis, which was erupted after Newsnight had shelved an earlier investigation into allegations of child abuse.

In October at a parliamentary hearing Mr Entwistle was accused by MPs of showing "an extraordinary lack of curiosity" over the Jimmy Savile affair and was told to "get a grip".

The BBC still faces very serious questions, not just about its journalism but about how the organisation is run.

BBC leader resigns in wake of scandal

BBC Director General George Entwistle has stepped down over a scandal connected with Lord Alistair McAlpine, falsely suspected by the company of being involved in pedophilia in the 1980s.

This was reported by the BBC on Sunday night. "I have decided the honorable thing is to step down from the post," - said the journalist.

Entwistle was appointed Director General of the BBC on September 17, 2012, only to resign 54 days later in the wake of the biggest scandal in the history of the information group.

The scandal, which began with allegations against a single former BBC employee, has since engulfed hospitals, children’s homes, even the police.

It also poses questions for Mark Thompson, Entwistle's immediate predecessor, who on Monday becomes chief executive of The New York Times.

For an entire week, one of the BBC's key news shows suggested a leading Conservative party politician, who wasn’t named, had been involved in the rape of a young boy in Wales decades ago. The man accused denied it; the victim himself now says it was a case of mistaken identity.

Many networks ran interviews with the victim - one even asked whether a pedophile network had been protected by a masonic conspiracy. Did a judge who led an early inquiry into the abuse at a North Wales children’s home deliberately hide the names of famous or influential abusers?

In front of one million television viewers, a morning TV host handed a list of alleged pedophiles to the British Prime Minister David Cameron live on air. That list, allegedly including the names of other senior politicians, was compiled based on unsubstantiated Internet rumors.

The revelation that all of this was a mistake is once again causing Britain's media organizations to question their own values, only months after news of newspaper phone-hacking. It has filled Britain with outrage, astonishment and self-doubt.

The scandal had begun with separate claims that BBC - one of the most respected brands in journalism worldwide - had failed to expose the late BBC children's television personality and fundraiser, Jimmy Savile, as a pedophile even though it had interviewed several victims who made allegations against the star.

It’s now clear those allegations are well founded. Yet the same BBC program, 'Newsnight', that shelved the original and apparently accurate Savile story was the first to broadcast the latest false allegations.

'Newsnight' has apologized on air for its mistake, another inquiry has been launched, and the program has temporarily suspended all its investigatory work. On Saturday, Entwistle, who took his post in September, resigned in response to the growing scandal after a humiliating interviewon the BBC’s own flagship radio news program, 'Today'. The BBC is in crisis.

Entwistle only succeeded Mark Thompson, set to take over as chief executive of the New York Times Co, in September and almost immediately faced one of the biggest crises in the history of the BBC, funded by a licence fee paid by TV viewers.

This was the revelation by rival broadcaster ITV that the late Jimmy Savile, one of the most recognisable personalities on British television in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, had sexually abused young girls, some on BBC premises.

Suggestions then surfaced of a paedophile ring inside the BBC at the time, and a cover-up. Police have launched an inquiry and detectives said they had arrested their third suspect on Sunday, a man in his 70s from Cambridgeshire in central England.

Entwistle was condemned for the BBC's slow response to the Savile furore and then lambasted after it emerged that Newsnight had axed a planned expose into Savile shortly after his death and that the broadcaster had gone ahead with tributes instead.

His appearance before a parliamentary committee provoked mockery, with one lawmaker saying he had shown a "lamentable lack of knowledge" of what was going on at his own organisation.

Thompson has also faced questions from staff at the New York Times over whether he is still the right person to take one of the biggest jobs in American newspaper publishing.

The knives were out for Entwistle on Friday after the BBC apologised for the mistaken allegation that an ex-politician, later identified on the Internet as a close ally of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, had abused children, and had not asked him for a comment before broadcast.

The last straw came when Entwistle was forced to admit on BBC radio that he had not been told about the Newsnight report before it aired nor known - or asked - who the alleged abuser was until the name appeared in social media.


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