BBC begins disciplinary measures over Newsnight broadcast

The BBC's New Broadcasting House
Image caption The BBC will question some staff over a Newsnight report on child abuse

The BBC is beginning disciplinary measures against some of those involved in the decision to run a Newsnight report on care homes in north Wales.

The broadcast led to former Tory treasurer Lord McAlpine being wrongly implicated in child abuse allegations.

Acting director general Tim Davie has vowed to "get a grip of the situation".

BBC Northern Ireland's head, Peter Johnston, said he had a role in the decision-making of the Newsnight report but was not reconsidering his position.

Mr Davie took charge of the BBC following the resignation of George Entwistle over the Newsnight broadcast.

On Tuesday deputy prime minister Nick Clegg added his voice to those questioning the £450,000 severance pay that Mr Entwistle is due to receive.

'Hard to justify'

He said: "Mr Entwistle's pay-off is hard to justify, it's hard to explain - I guess he didn't need to take it when it was offered to him, but it's not really for governments to micro-manage these things in the BBC."

In response to criticism of the payout on Monday from both Downing Street and culture secretary Maria Miller, BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten described it as "justified and necessary".

In a letter to the chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport committee, Lord Patten said the sum was what the BBC would have had to pay if the trust had fired Mr Entwistle - something it was considering doing had he not stepped down.

Meanwhile, the inquiry into the Newsnight broadcast has identified "unacceptable" failings and said basic journalistic checks were not completed.

A summary of the findings by Ken MacQuarrie, director of BBC Scotland, has been released by the corporation, which said the full report would be issued after the completion of disciplinary proceedings, which will begin immediately.

It added that "there was a different understanding by the key parties about where the responsibility lay for the final editorial sign off for the story on the day".

A BBC spokesman later confirmed Mr Johnston's involvement "in decisions about the BBC Newsnight report".

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionActing director general Tim Davie: "My job now is to get a grip of the situation and take action"

Separately, three Conservative MPs are calling for funding to be withdrawn from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which was involved in the Newsnight investigation into the north Wales child abuse allegations.

Andrew Bridgen, Philip Davies and Bob Blackman have signed a Commons motion saying the BIJ - an independent body based at City University in London - has been "totally discredited".

The motion says organisations including Oxfam, Save the Children and the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust fund the BIJ - and should stop their donations.

However, Save The Children said the motion "was factually incorrect".

A spokesman said: "We have never funded the BIJ and we have sent a strong note to the MPs explaining this."

George Entwistle resigned after eight weeks as BBC director general, following the 2 November Newsnight report which led to former Tory treasurer, Lord McAlpine, being wrongly accused of child abuse in north Wales in the 1980s.

'Build trust'

In his first televised interview since taking charge of the corporation, Mr Davie said: "If the public are going to get journalism they trust from the BBC I have to be, as director general, very clear on who is running the news operation and ensuring that journalism we put out passes muster.

"The first decision I have made is to get a grip of that, take action and build trust by putting a clear line of command in.

"Separately, we are going to look at the individual process, and there may be disciplinary action. But I want to be fair to people. I don't subscribe to the view that you should act very quickly in that regard and be unreasonable."

The BBC's director of news, Helen Boaden, and her deputy, Steve Mitchell, have been asked to "step aside" pending an internal review into the way abuse claims about Jimmy Savile were handled.

The corporation said it found that neither Ms Boaden nor her deputy Mr Mitchell "had anything at all to do with the failed Newsnight investigation into Lord McAlpine".

However, they were in the chain of command at the time that Newsnight shelved an earlier investigation into abuse claims against former BBC presenter Jimmy Savile.

They had removed themselves from making decisions on some areas of BBC News output while a separate inquiry, by former head of Sky News Nick Pollard, was held into that decision.

The BBC said once the Pollard Review reports, Ms Boaden and Mr Mitchell "expect to then return to their positions".

Meanwhile, MP Chris Bryant said there should be one overall inquiry looking into the child abuse scandal and subsequent BBC row rather than nine separate investigations.

Around the BBC

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites