BBC under fire again after false child sex abuse report

Sat Nov 10, 2012 11:18am EST
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By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's public broadcaster, reeling from revelations that one of its former stars was a pedophile, was struggling to contain damage on Saturday after a flagship news program aired a mistaken allegation that an ex-politician sexually abused children.

The BBC had already issued a full apology on Friday, but on Saturday its director general had to admit under questioning from his own journalists that he had not known in advance about the Newsnight report, weeks after being accused of being too hands-off over the previous scandal on the same program.

"In retrospect I wish this had been brought to my attention," said George Entwistle, who is also the BBC's editor-in-chief, adding that he should not be expected to be familiar with the BBC's entire news output.

Entwistle, in the job for only two months, said he would not resign. But criticism was growing that a 90-year-old institution affectionately known as "Auntie" was systematically incapable of addressing its failings.

"I listened to the director general with increasing disbelief," John Whittingdale, chairman of parliament's powerful media committee, told Reuters. "The level of failure of management at every level within the BBC, up to and including the director general, is just extraordinary."

The BBC and its bosses have been under huge pressure since a rival broadcaster revealed last month that the late Jimmy Savile, one of the most recognizable personalities on British television in the 1970s and 80s, was a prolific sex offender.


Suggestions have surfaced of a pedophile ring inside the broadcaster at the time and a BBC cover-up. To complicate matters for Entwistle, Newsnight pulled a planned expose of Savile shortly after his death last year, and the BBC went ahead with tribute shows.   Continued...

A pedestrian walks past a BBC logo at Broadcasting House in central London October 22, 2012. REUTERS/Olivia Harris