BBC news chiefs step aside, more tipped to follow
LONDON: The BBC's news chief and her deputy have ''stepped aside'' as the broadcaster deals with the fallout from a child abuse scandal that has forced its director-general to resign.
Helen Boaden, the BBC's director of news and current affairs, and her deputy, Steve Mitchell, have handed over their responsibilities to others for the time being, BBC media correspondent Torin Douglas said on Monday.
Their departure comes before a report into the Newsnight program that mistakenly implicated Lord McAlpine in a sex abuse scandal.
It follows the resignation of director-general George Entwistle on Saturday, which has left the embattled corporation in crisis, amid calls for BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten to follow suit.
Lord Patten approved a £1.32 million ($2 million) payout for Mr Entwistle, who resigned after just 54 days in the job. He left with a £450,000 lump sum on top of his £877,000 pension pot, which was described as ''unjustifiable and unacceptable'' by one senior MP.
The trust said Mr Entwistle had been given a year's salary, which amounts to £8333 for every day he spent on the job, to ''reflect the fact that he will continue to help the BBC business'' by giving evidence to a series of inquiries into the Jimmy Savile affair and ''effect a speedy resolution and allow the BBC to move on''.
The chairman of Parliament's culture, media and sport select committee, John Whittingdale, said licence fee payers would be ''surprised'' Mr Entwistle was given so much money after such a short tenure, while Philip Davies MP, who also sits on the committee, said it was ''yet another reason'' Lord Patten should resign.
Mr Entwistle quit after the flagship Newsnight program was forced to issue an ''unreserved'' apology to former minister Lord McAlpine.
Lord Patten admitted the very existence of Newsnight, already in crisis after it cancelled a film last year that would have exposed Savile as a paedophile, was open to question.
Up to six senior executives are expected to follow Mr Entwistle out the door once the findings of a series of internal reviews are published, throwing the leadership of the BBC further into chaos.
As the hunt for a new director-general began, the veteran broadcaster David Dimbleby said the trust must appoint an outsider who is not ''pickled in the culture'' of bureaucracy that has ''throttled'' the BBC in recent years.
Lord Patten insisted he would not resign, but admitted his job would be on the line if he could not rebuild public trust in the BBC.
But Mr Davies suggested Lord Patten's position had become ''untenable''. ''He has been asleep at the wheel while he has been doing the job, he spent hundreds of thousands of pounds of licence fee money appointing George Entwistle and 54 days later he is gone,'' he said.
''This payoff is totally unjustifiable, it's unacceptable, it's extraordinary and I suspect it's been done to save Lord Patten's bacon.''
Downing Street said Lord Patten - a former Conservative minister - retained the support of the Prime Minister, David Cameron, but that position is likely to change if he is criticised by any of the three BBC internal inquiries due to report back next month on Savile and sexual harassment.
The Daily Telegraph has learnt that the Newsnight program of November 2, in which a former care-home resident wrongly claimed to have been abused by a senior Tory, was approved for transmission by one of the more junior members of the BBC's 12-man management board.
Telegraph, London; Press Association