George Entwistle resigns as BBC director general

Key Points

  • The BBC's director general, George Entwistle, resigns in the wake of the Newsnight child abuse broadcast
  • In a statement, Mr Entwistle says the "wholly exceptional" events of last week had convinced him to stand down
  • Tim Davie, who is currently director of audio and music, is to be acting director general from Sunday
  • BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten said of Mr Entwistle's resignation: "This is undoubtedly one of the saddest evenings of my public life"

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    2150: Breaking News

    The BBC's director general, George Entwistle, resigns in the wake of the Newsnight child abuse broadcast.


    Welcome to our live coverage of the resignation of BBC director general George Entwistle. We'll be bringing you all the latest news, reaction and analysis.


    In a statement given outside New Broadcasting House at 21:00 BST, Mr Entwistle said: "I have decided that the honourable thing to do is to step down."


    His statement 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." Read the statement in full here.

    George Entwistle

    Mr Entwistle, pictured leaving his home earlier today, had been in the post for less than two months.


    His statement went on to say that the "wholly exceptional" events of the past week had convinced him he should stand down.


    He said that when he was appointed to the role, he was confident BBC trustees had chosen the best candidate for the post and the "right person to tackle the challenges and opportunities ahead". Watch a video of his statement in full here.


    His statement went on: "To have been the director general of the BBC even for a short period, and in the most challenging of circumstances, has been a great honour. While there is understandable public concern over a number of issues well covered in the media - which I'm confident will be addressed by the review process - we must not lose sight of the fact that the BBC is full of people of the greatest talent and the highest integrity. That's what will continue to make it the finest broadcaster in the world."

    George Entwistle and Lord Patten

    Speaking after Mr Entwistle gave his statement, BBC Trust chairman, Lord Patten (pictured right), said it was "undoubtedly one of the saddest evenings of my public life".


    George Entwistle had been BBC director general for less than eight weeks, having taken up the job on 17 September. You can read a full profile of his career with the corporation by clicking here.


    Tim Davie, who is to be acting director general, is currently chief executive of BBC Worldwide.


    Mr Entwistle's resignation comes after a BBC2 Newsnight report led to an ex-senior Conservative, Lord McAlpine, being wrongly implicated in child sex abuse at a children's home in north Wales. Mr Entwistle had apologised unreservedly to Lord McAlpine and said he was only aware of the story after it was broadcast.


    Lord McAlpine, although not named on Newsnight, was wrongly identified on the internet as the alleged abuser. The abuse victim, Steve Messham, later apologised to Lord McAlpine, a former Tory treasurer during Margaret Thatcher's leadership, after saying he did not abuse him.


    The first reaction to the resignation is coming through. Culture Secretary Maria Miller said: "It is a regrettable but the right decision. It is vital that credibility and public trust in this important national institution is restored." She said it was crucial the BBC put systems in place to ensure it can make first class news and current affairs programmes.


    Mr Entwistle's resignation also comes amid a growing scandal over allegations that the late BBC presenter and DJ, Jimmy Savile, abused children, often on BBC premises.


    John Whittingdale MP, chairman of the Commons media select committee, says the events of the past week "reflect serious failures throughout the management of the BBC". He adds there are now "very serious questions" to be asked about how the BBC is run.


    Former BBC chairman Sir Christopher Bland says Mr Entwistle's decision would "satisfy the bloodlust" of the media and the House of Commons. He added that trust in the corporation can only be restored through being earned - and with much calmer analysis.


    Mr Entwistle's statement was almost word-for-word the same as his resignation letter to Lord Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust. The BBC tonight released the letter, along with the reply from Lord Patten, in which says he accepts the resignation "with great regret".


    Lord Patten's letter went on: "You have very honourably accepted responsibility for serious editorial failings in the BBC's journalism and management. The Trust appointed you because of a belief that the BBC needs significant reform. The events of the past few weeks bear this out. I regret that you have not had the time or opportunity to put in place the changes we both agree would lead to a better managed and more creative BBC; these are of course changes that you advocated in your initial statement outlining your policy intention. But I think, in offering your resignation, which I accept, you have taken responsibility and given the BBC the chance to start moving on from this difficult period."

    George Entwistle

    Media gathered outside New Broadcasting House in central London ahead of Mr Entwistle's brief statement just after 21:00 BST.


    George Entwistle started his career at the BBC as a journalism trainee in 1989. On joining, he worked as an assistant producer on Panorama, covering the first Gulf War and the fall of prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Read a full profile of Mr Entwistle here.


    A bit more from John Whittingdale now, who is chairman of the Commons media select committee. "It left the impression that the management of the BBC had lost their grip of the organisation and I think tonight's decision is undoubtedly the right one," he told the BBC. "I think that what has happened in the last few days has immensely weakened his authority and credibility. It would have been very difficult for him to continue in those circumstances."


    BBC home editor Mark Easton says the BBC has been put in a "dangerous position". He says the BBC is at a "real crossroads, because its whole future depends on convincing the public in the United Kingdom that this is an organisation in which they have confidence, and in which they have trust, and that they believe in the integrity of our news coverage".


    George Entwistle has sent an email to staff with the full text of his resignation.


    Kevin Marsh, former editor of Radio 4's Today Programme, says the BBC needs to get better systems in place so that the corporation's journalism is "as good as we want it to be".


    Financial Times media correspondent Ben Fenton said it seems a bit odd Mr Entwistle has resigned without seeing through the investigation into which journalistic leaders of the BBC should be held responsible for the failures he had talked about. He should have perhaps left after he "took the damage", said Mr Fenton.

    It seems there will be a lot of damage over the coming weeks but any recriminations will take place in "rudderless BBC", he added.


    Labour former culture secretary Ben Bradshaw posts on Twitter: "The departure of George Entwistle is a dreadful injustice and a terrible mistake. Who will sort the mess out now?"


    Media commentator Steve Hewlett says George Entwistle gave a poor performance in interviews this morning, when he was responding to the airing of the Newsnight on child abuse at north Wales care homes. He said he looked like a man "who was not in control".

    Caroline Thomson

    Caroline Thomson is the favourite to become the new director general of the BBC, according to Ladbrokes. The bookmaker is now quoting Thomson, the BBC's former chief operating officer, as the favourite to replace him at 5/2, followed closely by Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards at 3/1.

    2246: Michael F Watts

    comments on the BBC News website: Full marks to Entwistle for offering to do the decent thing but his resignation should have been refused so that he can get on with sorting out the Beeb...


    Appearing on Radio 4's Today Programme this morning, Mr Entwistle had insisted he was not intending to resign. He acknowledged however that his fate lay ultimately in the hands of his employers, the BBC Trust. "I am doing the right things to try and put this stuff straight," he said. "I am accountable to the Trust in that endeavour. If they do not feel I am doing the right things, then obviously I will be bound by their judgment."

    2247: Ruth Hunt in Burscough

    emails: I have just watched the news and want to say how sorry I am that George Entwistle has had to resign and I feel for him and his family. There is an agenda against the BBC and they are like vultures. Mistaken identity leads to the crash of so many careers.

    2248: Paulio

    tweets: So George Entwistle has stood down, as I predicted when the #Savile thing first flared up. He did a lousy job in his short spell as #BBC DG.


    There is a 5/1 chance that Helen Boaden steps up from BBC's director of news, says Ladbrokes. The bookmaker also says it has odds of 8/1 that acting director general Tim Davie takes on the role full time. Jessica Bridge, of Ladbrokes, says: "Another one bites the dust and the odds suggest [Caroline] Thomson won't be unlucky in the selection process second time round."

    The Sun on Sunday

    The front pages of tomorrow's newspapers are beginning to come through, many of them dealing with Mr Entwistle's resignation.


    The story is also being picked up by international media - the New York Post and the New Zealand Herald are among the news organisations covering the story.

    2253: Cathryn Summerhayes

    tweets: I feel sorry for Mr Entwistle. He lasted about as long as a poor premiership football manager. Former BBC DGs are surely more accountable.


    Tim Davie - now acting director general - is a member of the BBC's executive board, a trustee of BBC Children in Need, and board member of Radio Joint Audience Research - Rajar - the official body in charge of measuring radio audiences in the UK. Read a full profile here.

    2258: Dr Paul Nailor in London

    emails: The DG's resignation was inevitable. Now we need someone from outside the BBC to take his place and a root and branch restructuring of the hopeless management staff and systems. Otherwise the BBC will never recover.

    Jimmy Savile

    During his 54 days in charge, Mr Entwistle had to deal with controversy over the BBC shelving a Newsnight investigation into former BBC presenter and DJ Jimmy Savile, who police say could have abused as many as 300 people over a 40-year-period.

    2301: johnmac

    comments on the BBC News website: What a cop out! Stay and do the job you are paid to do and sort things out. Whoever is responsible for hiring this lightweight has some questions to answer as well. I am so fed up when every time things go wrong someone either escapes by resigning or saying the phrase "lessons need to be learned". Come on BBC we deserve some leadership.


    George Entwistle arrives home, telling reporters: "Thank you for waiting ladies and gentlemen. I'm now going to spend some time with my family."


    In response to the Savile scandal, Mr Entwistle launched two BBC inquiries. Former Sky News head Nick Pollard is examining whether there were BBC management failings following the Newsnight programme not being broadcast, And an inquiry has begun into the culture and practices at the BBC in the era of alleged sexual abuse by Savile. Here is a Q&A on the allegations against Savile.

    2302: Stephen Fry

    tweets: Inevitable George Entwistle would fall on his sword. Damned for stopping a Newsnight, damned for allowing one. A kind, wise man. Heigh ho.

    2307: TweedPancake

    comments on the BBC News website: Despite all the controversy around Newsnight I still think it does some excellent investigative journalism. I would be disappointed if it got the axe just because of some poor editorial decisions.


    Ben Bradshaw MP, a member of the culture select committee, says we don't yet know whether Mr Entwistle resigned or was pushed after just seven weeks in the job. But he adds: "He's been done a real injustice." He says the BBC Trust should have given him more time - and he adds that he is not confident that someone else could do a better job.


    Ben Bradshaw MP also says the BBC Trust now "really has to get a grip". He adds: "Without the BBC where will good journalism come from? It makes me really want to weep."


    The BBC's Ben Geoghegan, outside New Broadcasting House, says the decision has divided opinion. The likes of MP Ben Bradshaw and former BBC chairman Sir Christopher Bland say that he has been wrongly sacrificed. However, many other people - the majority - believe it is probably the right decision because of the depth of the crisis.


    Totalling just 54 days, George Entwistle's reign as BBC director general is the shortest in history.


    Newspaper websites are beginning to carry the story, along with some analysis. The Observer says Entwistle was not really cut out for the job. "He worried ceaselessly once the Savile crisis broke. His public appearances were rarely sure footed; struggling before a select committee as well as Today, " it says.

    Lord Patten

    Lord Patten, the chairman of the BBC Trust, followed Mr Entwistle in giving a statement. "George was set on putting in place a number of reforms and changes which will be required in this great organisation," he said. And it's a real tragedy that he was overwhelmed - as we all were to a great extent - by these events before he was able to act in a way which is clearly necessary."


    Former TV executive David Elstein says Mr Entwistle's interview on Today was "catastrophic" and his "profound ignorance was so glaring" over the Newsnight story. He says that after that the Trust would have "tossed him out", in an interview with the BBC.

    Ben Bradshaw

    A bit more of what the MP Ben Bradshaw had to say. He told the BBC: "George Entwistle understood what needed to be done at the BBC to sort out the total dysfunctionality that is clearly in the BBC in its news management. He was doing that. But because of the firestorm that has surrounded him, he's been forced out. I think that's a tragedy not just for him personally but I think it will be a very very bad thing for the BBC as well."

    George Entwistle

    Mr Entwistle arrived home shortly after giving his statement, saying only that he would be spending some time with his family.

    2340: Pelinor

    comments on the BBC News website: Well it's the only useful thing he could have done. Perhaps the next DG will take an interest in the BBC and know what's going on. It would be helpful if they also read the newspapers and watch the TV now and again because it's quite obvious Mr Entwistle did neither. I have to ask what on earth did he do all day?

    2340: Former Newsnight political editor Michael Crick, now at C4 News

    tweets: George Entwistle's resignation v sad. A good, decent man, badly let down. V few people could have coped with recent rush of awful events


    The BBC's media correspondent Torin Douglas says that coming so soon after the Jimmy Savile scandal, the Newsnight revelations are particularly damaging to the BBC. But the wider issue is also about the handling of the crisis. The BBC still faces very serious questions, not just about its journalism, he says.


    The Mail on Sunday has gone with the front-page headline "Bloodbath at BBC as chief quits" in the later editions of tomorrow's newspaper.

    2341: Journalist Laura Slattery

    tweets: This is about the running of a public organisation. George Entwistle was on £450,000 a year, but couldn't do crisis management.

    2341: Paul Edwards

    tweets: How does George Entwistle's resignation help bring to justice those people who abused children? Or have the media forgotten about that?


    The New York Times reports on the story. The introduction to its online story says: "London - the director general of the BBC resigned late Saturday in the wake of a growing scandal surrounding news reports about prominent public figures accused of pedophilia."

    The Observer

    The resignation announcement came too late for the Observer, but the newspaper's front page is an interview with BBC veteran Jonathan Dimbleby, who says the BBC "resembles a rudderless ship heading towards the rocks".

    2351: Matty

    comments on the BBC News website: I despise this current witch hunt - the people to blame are the abusers and the police are the appropriate authority to investigate and take action, not the BBC or any other media.


    The Independent leads with the front-page headline: Out of touch. Out of his depth. Out of a job. The online version of tomorrow's story says: "The future of the corporation's flagship current affairs programme remained in the balance last night, with Mr Entwistle's resignation leaving it no clearer whether the corporation would pull the plug on it or not."


    The Daily Telegraph reports on its front page on a statement it has seen from Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman. It reports Paxman is said to be considering his future.

    2358: Breaking News

    Conservative MP Philip Davies, who sits on the culture select committee, calls for Lord Patten, the chairman of the BBC Trust, to resign.


    The Sunday Mirror appears to be the only newspaper that has taken the decision not to carry the story of George Entwistle's resignation on its front page. Instead, it goes with a story about I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.

    0000: Anna Wareham

    comments on Facebook: Bit late for honourable actions whoever is at fault; he is taking the bullet


    Philip Davies tells BBC political correspondent Chris Mason that George Entwistle "is responsible for the public's trust in the BBC" and "that trust is at an all-time low".


    Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale, a former BBC producer, tells our correspondent that Lord Patten's remarks prove he is "out of touch".


    In his analysis, BBC home editor Mark Easton writes: "Even in the brief 54 days in the job, he had managed to win a reputation as "incurious George", a man without a grip on an organisation in deep crisis. But in going he leaves the BBC in even more trouble. The new man in charge, Tim Davie, has no journalistic experience and is a relative newcomer to the corporation. This morning the corporation finds itself wounded, under attack and, in effect, leaderless."

    Tim Davie

    Last month, Tim Davie was appointed the new chief executive of BBC Worldwide and he was due to take up the post next month. Mr Davie has been in his current role of director of BBC Audio & Music, with overall responsibility for BBC Radios 1, 2, 3, 4, and the BBC digital radio stations 1Xtra, 6Music, BBC 4Extra, and the Asian Network, for four years. Read a full profile of Mr Davie here.

    0017: Fairmindedcitizen

    comments on the BBC News website: The DG was out of his depth. His performance on Radio 4 this morning beggared belief. Excuses upon excuses for sheer incompetence. His finger was not on the pulse. He presided over the coverage of the jubilee pageant. He was full of excuses for that debacle too.


    Lord Patten, BBC Trust chairman, is due to appear on BBC1's Andrew Marr show in the morning to answer questions about Mr Entwistle's resignation.


    The Observer's John Ware, writes on the newspaper's website: "The resignation of George Entwistle as the BBC's director general is both a personal tragedy and a hammer-blow for the BBC."


    That concludes our live coverage of the resignation of BBC director general George Entwistle, who stood down amid a growing scandal over the broadcast of a Newsnight programme that wrongly implicated ex-senior Tory Lord McAlpine in child abuse allegations. For all the latest lines on the story - along with reaction and analysis - check our main story through the night.


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