Huffpost UK uk

George Entwistle, BBC Director General, Faces Backlash For Handling Of Newsnight Report

Posted: Updated:
Print Article
GEORGE ENTWISTLE
Entwistle has faced a barrage of media criticism over his interview | Getty Images

The director general of the BBC faces an uncertain future on Saturday night over the latest scandal to blight the corporation's flagship Newsnight programme in which a Tory Peer was incorrectly implicated in allegation of child sex abuse.

A day of heavy criticism saw George Entwistle mauled on the Radio 4’s Today programme by John Humphreys, who probed the recently appointed editor-in-chief as to why he hadn’t taken more of an interest into the programme’s output, particularly in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

Entwistle told Humphreys: "In the light of what has happened here I wish this was referred to me, but it wasn't. I found out about the film the following day."

In a brutal examination of his boss’s failings, Humphrey barked: "So there is no natural curiosity, you wait for somebody to come along to you and say 'Excuse me director general, but this is happening and you may be interested'?"

"You don't look for yourself, you don't do what everybody else in the country does, read newspapers, listen to everything that's going on and say 'What's happening here?'"

On Saturday evening, Labour deputy leader and shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman waded into the row, emphasising that something had gone "badly wrong" at Newsnight.

"The director general only took over the leadership of the BBC eight weeks ago, but he needs to show decisively that he is addressing the systemic problems which are in evidence here," she said.

Throughout the day, pundits and politicians lined up to point out the failings of the programme, its staff and the director general, including a broadside from parliamentary culture select committee chairman John Whittingdale, who slammed the BBC chief's "extraordinary lack of curiosity" in Newsnight's investigations.

During his savaging on the Today programme, Entwistle apologised for Newsnight's investigation leading to the incorrect "outing" of Lord McAlpine as the senior Tory paedophile, calling the reports "unacceptable", and announcing he would look into the affair and that he had "taken clear and decisive action to start to find out what happened and put things right".

LISTEN: Audio of Entwistle's Today appearance

Following the interview, former ITN editor-in-chief Stewart Purvis tweeted that the interview was the "most painful I've ever heard with a DG of the #bbc".

Purvis wasn't alone, with journalists, politicians and even current BBC employees criticising Entwistle's interview. The deputy national editor of the Guardian, Polly Curtis, said that: "I knew the film was being transmitted. Everyone on Twitter knew. How did George Entwistle not know?"


polly curtis
I knew the film was being transmitted. Everyone on twitter knew. How did george entwistle not know?

Former managing director of BBC Television Will Wyatt strongly criticised the entire affair, saying the fallout of the report was "a terrible blow to the reputation of the programme".

Speaking to the Guardian, Wyatt said: "I can't believe everyone on the payroll will be there in two months' time. This is not a time for sentimentality."

In an interview with the BBC, John Whittingdale, chair of the culture, media and sport select committee, criticised the BBC and ignorance of the Newsnight report, saying: "At the end of the day the editor in chief of the BBC, the director general, he should have satisfied himself that this programme was right to be broadcast and he wasn't even aware it was going out."

Whittingdale added: "You would have thought that whole of the BBC would be alert to make sure there weren't going to be any more blunders".

Meanwhile the BBC Trust has spoken out on the matter, calling the saga a "deeply troubling episode," and pressed Entwistle to "get to the bottom of this as a matter of the utmost urgency".

Twitter was alight with criticism and disbelief at Entwistle's interview, the most prominent of which you can see in our slideshow below:

Also on The Huffington Post

George Entwistle Reaction
of
Share
Tweet
Advertisement
Share this
close
Current Slide

Suggest a correction