BBC must reform or die, says Trust chairman

Sun Nov 11, 2012 11:15am EST
 

By Michael Holden and Kate Holton

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's BBC could be doomed unless it makes radical changes, the head of its governing trust said on Sunday, after its director general quit to take the blame for the airing of false child sex abuse allegations against a former politician.

Chris Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, said confidence had to be restored if the publicly funded corporation was to withstand pressure from rivals, especially Rupert Murdoch's media empire, which would try to take advantage of the turmoil.

"If you're saying, 'Does the BBC need a thorough structural radical overhaul?', then absolutely it does, and that is what we will have to do," Patten, a one-time senior figure in Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party and the last British governor of Hong Kong, told BBC television.

"The basis for the BBC's position in this country is the trust that people have in it," Patten said. "If the BBC loses that, it's over."

George Entwistle resigned as director general on Saturday, just two months into the job, to take responsibility for the child sex allegation on the flagship news program Newsnight.

The witness in the report, who says he suffered sexual abuse at a care home in the late 1970s, said on Friday he had misidentified the politician, Alistair McAlpine. Newsnight admitted it had not shown the witness a picture of McAlpine, or approached McAlpine for comment before going to air.

Already under pressure after revelations that a long-time star presenter, the late Jimmy Savile, was a pedophile, Entwistle conceded on the BBC morning news that he had not known - or asked - who the alleged abuser was until the name appeared in social media.

The BBC, celebrating its 90th anniversary, is affectionately known in Britain as "Auntie", and respected around much of the world.   Continued...

 
Chris Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, waits to speak on the Andrew Marr political talk show at BBC studios in London November 11, 2012. REUTERS/Jeff Overs/BBC/handout