BBC head says broadcaster must reform or die

Nov 12 2012, 16:14 IST
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SummaryDirector general quit to take blame for airing of false child sex abuse allegations against ex-politician.

The British Broadcasting Corporation could be doomed unless it makes radical changes, the head of its governing trust said, after its director general quit to take the blame for the airing of false child sex abuse allegations against a former politician.

BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten said on Sunday that confidence had to be restored if the publicly funded corporation was to withstand pressure from rivals, especially Rupert Murdoch's media empire, which could 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 made on the flagship news programme Newsnight.

He will receive one year's salary, worth 450,000 pounds, as part of a pay-off deal, the BBC reported.

The witness in the Newsnight report, who said he suffered sexual abuse at a care home in the late 1970s, confessed on Friday he had misidentified the politician, Alistair McAlpine, and retracted his allegation. 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 paedophile, 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 is respected around much of the world.

But with 22,000 staff working at eight national TV channels, 50 radio stations and an extensive Internet operation, critics say it is hampered by a complex and overly bureaucratic and hierarchical management structure.

Thompson's legacy

Journalists said this had become worse under Entwistle's predecessor Mark Thompson, who took over in the wake of the last major crisis to hit the corporation and is set to become chief executive of the New York Times Co on Monday.

In that instance, both the director general and the chairman were forced out

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