New head of BBC News Fran Unsworth urges staff to stop leaking information

 

The latest head of the BBC News operation has begun her new regime by attempting to stop the flow of information – as she pleaded with colleagues not to contribute to the wave of bad news which is threatening to engulf the organisation in the wake of the Jimmy Savile and Lord McAlpine scandals.

As it emerged that the BBC has this week been facing more than 100 different news stories a day highlighting its current difficulties, Fran Unsworth, the acting Director of News, attempted to prevent further leaks by emailing her staff on her first day asking them not to tweet or speak to other news organisations.

“We now need to restore some equilibrium to the organisation,” he said. “It would be helpful if some of our problems were not played out publically across social media and in the pages of the national press.” But members of the world’s biggest news organisation promptly revealed the development.

As concerns grew over the fallout from Newsnight’s misreporting, which led to Lord McAlpine being falsely linked to a paedophile ring, its key witness Steve Messham told BBC Wales’s Week In Week Out that he hoped the affair would not inhibit other child abuse victims from coming forward. “People have got to realise it’s a genuine error on my part,” he said.

Angus Stickler, the former BBC Radio journalist working for the Bureau of Investigative Journalism who delivered the story to Newsnight, today gave evidence to the bureau’s trust on his role in the bungled report.

As Ms Unsworth reiterated concerns over the “lack of clarity” in the BBC’s editorial command, BBC journalists were surprised that Radio 5 Live controller Adrian van Klaveren and Director of BBC Northern Ireland Peter Johnston had returned to their usual roles in the news structure, despite having signed off the McAlpine piece. Director of News Helen Boaden and her deputy Stephen Mitchell have been made to “stand aside” from their posts despite having taken no part in that story.

Ms Unsworth’s warnings over leaks and tweets come as the BBC is facing a general crisis of confidence in its internal communications with widespread incredulity at the outgoing Director General George Entwistle’s claim not to have been aware of the risks associated with the controversial Newsnight film both before and after it was broadcast.

Mr Entwistle told interviewer John Humphrys of the Radio 4 Today programme on Saturday that he had not been aware of a tweet referring to the inflammatory nature of the film and had not watched the piece when it was broadcast.

But there was even greater astonishment inside the BBC when Mr Entwistle said he had not read a front page Guardian article exposing the Newsnight story as false. The Director General claimed he had instead been concentrating on a speech (a private talk he delivered to the organisation Public Broadcasters International at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in Westminster).

Mr Entwistle was already taking advice over his position from BBC lawyers following the setting up of internal inquiries into the organisation’s handling of the Savile crisis, in which he was involved. It is understood that the Guardian piece, which the Director General chose not to read, was part of a top-level BBC internal communications briefing on Friday, a day before Mr Entwistle’s interview on Today in which he appeared so ill-informed that his position became untenable, leading to his resignation hours later. Somehow he did not register the message from that briefing. “If the system is not referring things it should refer to the editor-in-chief then it’s not working properly,” he complained to Mr Humphrys shortly before stepping down.

 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Web Developer - ASP.NET, C#, MVC - London

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Web Developer -...

Ashdown Group: .NET Developer : ASP.NET , C# , MVC , web development

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits - see advert: Ashdown Group: .N...

Guru Careers: 3D Package Designer / 3D Designer

£25 - 30K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an exceptional 3D Package Designer / 3...

Guru Careers: Interior Designer

£Competitive: Guru Careers: We are seeking a strong Middleweight / Senior Inte...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss