BBC boss resigns over Queen row

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BBC1 controller Peter Fincham resigned today in the wake of the controversy over a trailer for a documentary about the Queen.

Fincham wrongly told journalists that the trailer for A Year With The Queen showed the monarch "walking out in a huff".

He was forced to go after an independent inquiry released today criticised "misjudgements, poor practice and ineffective systems" at the Corporation.

Fincham announced at a press launch on July 11 that the documentary would show the Queen storming out of a sitting with celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz following a row over whether or not she should remove her crown.

Within hours he had discovered that the story was untrue - but did not correct it until the following day.

Footage in the trailer of the Queen apparently walking out was actually a scene of her walking into the photoshoot.

The BBC eventually apologised at noon the following day.

Fincham refused all calls to resign in the days after the affair.

"If (BBC director-general) Mark Thompson wants me to resign I will, of course, do so.

"As a matter of fact, Mark Thompson has sent me a message of support in this, that he doesn't want me to resign," he said on July 13.

Last month, Fincham told industry executives he hoped to be still in his job by Christmas.

The independent inquiry was carried out by former BBC executive Will Wyatt.

He concluded that the decision - taken with the Buckingham Palace press office - to delay correcting the story until the following day was a "mistake".

Wyatt's report said: "Throughout the morning on the day after the launch, BBC news was running with a story that two or three senior BBC staff had known since the previous evening was wrong.

"It took too long for anyone to address this and to ask 'How did this happen in the first place?"'

The report stated: "It is worth emphasising that I do not believe that anyone consciously set out to defame or misrepresent the Queen in the tape which was prepared for the BBC1 season launch.

"Nor was there ever a possibility that the misleading sequence could have been included in the finished documentary to be broadcast by the BBC.

"That said, the incident reveals misjudgments, poor practice and ineffective systems as well, of course, as the usual helping of bad luck that often accompanies such sorry affairs."

Wyatt was also highly critical of production company RDF, which made the programme and misleadingly edited the trailer.

RDF boss Stephen Lambert also resigned today as a result of the inquiry.

The report said: "A fuse was inexcusably lit when RDF edited footage of the Queen in a cavalier fashion for a promotional tape...

"The edit made it appear that the Queen walked out of the photoshoot, when she did not."

The report concluded that those handling the issue were "slow to appreciate the magnitude and import of the mistake and consequent press story and failed to involve enough people swiftly enough".

Fincham said he was leaving the BBC "with great sadness".

His resignation to BBC director-general Mark Thompson reads: "Dear Mark, it is with very great regret that I have concluded, following Will Wyatt's report, that I should resign as controller of BBC1.

"I have had the tremendous privilege of leading BBC1 through a period where the channel has undergone creative renewal. I believe we have made some really great programmes.

"While I leave the channel with great sadness I am tremendously proud of what I and my team have achieved. Yours ever, Peter Fincham."

Thompson praised Fincham as an "outstanding controller" and a man of integrity.

His reply reads: "Dear Peter, Thank you for your letter.

"It is with real sadness that I accept your decision to resign. Your decision to take responsibility demonstrates the integrity and conviction which has characterised your leadership of BBC1. I know my sadness today will be shared across the BBC and the wider broadcasting industry.

"You have been an outstanding controller. Under your leadership the channel has flourished and you have built an environment in which some of the most talented people in television have brought their best creative work to our audience.

"The decision by your peers at the Edinburgh Television Festival in August to name BBC1 Channel of the Year shows how widely this view is shared.

"I know you will continue to make an outstanding contribution to British television."

Buckingham Palace declined to comment, saying it was a matter for the BBC.

The report said RDF had shown a "cavalier" approach to editing the footage.

A Year With The Queen was made as a five-part documentary series featuring behind-the-scenes access to Buckingham Palace.

The trailer showed the Queen walking into a room wearing a tiara and Order of the Garter robes.

Photographer Leibovitz said: "I think it will look better without the crown because the garter robe is so..."

A stony-faced Queen replied: "Less dressy? What do you think this is?" while pointing to what she was wearing.

The trailer screened at the BBC1 launch then cut to the Queen striding down a corridor and telling a female aide: "I'm not changing anything... I've had enough."

The clear impression created was that the Queen had walked out.

But the latter sequence actually happened first.

According to the Wyatt report, the Queen was uncharacteristically late after having to put on the Garter robes and was being briefed that there might have to be "changes later".

And the report revealed that, far from being irritated by Leibovitz's suggestion, the Queen paused after her "less dressy" comment, then chuckled and carried on with the photoshoot.

This was caught on film but left out of the trailer.

RDF told the inquiry it was not clear in the original sequence why the Queen was in a bad mood and edited it so that it "made more sense".

RDF chief Lambert edited the footage personally.

Wyatt's report said: "This was a cavalier way of treating any footage, let alone of the head of state going about her duties."

The trailer was not originally intended to be shown at the press launch or seen by the public.

It was compiled for a select audience of industry executives at a Cannes conference in April. RDF sent the tape for use in the BBC launch without checking it.

In his resignation statement, Lambert said: "My action, which I accept in the words of the inquiry was 'cavalier', was the first step in a chain of carelessness and misunderstandings which had very serious consequences. It was therefore right that I should go.

"Unfortunately, the series of errors which led to an unintentionally misleading trailer being shown to the press has been lumped together in the public mind with several incidences of actual broadcast programmes which did deceive the public.

"This confusion has been quite unnecessarily damaging to RDF."

Lambert said he offered his resignation three months ago but agreed to stay until publication of the report in order to handle the crisis.