Rudderless and reeling, the BBC looks for a new sense of direction

Entwistle's terminal crisis highlights the broadcaster's wider organisational problems

The resignation of the head of the BBC is a story of institutional failure at the world's most famous broadcasting organisation as much as it is a personal tragedy for the Director-General.

The BBC now finds itself leaderless and adrift in a crisis that is threatening to become more damaging even than the fallout from the Hutton Inquiry in 2004.

The 54-day tenure of George Entwistle should have been characterised by gripping news stories such as the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy and the re-election triumph of Barack Obama. Instead, the BBC itself became the news story, for all the wrong reasons.

In accepting Mr Entwistle's resignation, Lord Patten, the chairman of the BBC Trust, said the Director-General he had so recently anointed had been betrayed by "unacceptable shoddy journalism". He was pointing the finger firmly at Angus Stickler of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and his erroneous report for Newsnight on 2 November suggesting that a former senior Conservative had been involved in child abuse.

But the simplicity of Lord Patten's explanation failed to acknowledge the context of the flawed report, his own culpability, that of Mr Entwistle, or the role of the BBC's editorial procedures.

When ITV highlighted the BBC's journalistic shortcomings in failing to broadcast its own evidence of allegations of child abuse against Jimmy Savile, Mr Entwistle's initial response was to ask the head of BBC Scotland, Ken MacQuarrie, to take a look at the background. As the uproar escalated, the BBC was obliged to stand Mr MacQuarrie down and set up two major inquiries headed by a judge, Dame Janet Smith, and the former head of Sky News Nick Pollard.

Newsnight is now in a state of limbo from which it may never return. Its editor, Peter Rippon, contributed to the sense of complacency over its failure to expose Savile with a blog post on 2 October which has since been exposed as being factually incorrect.

Mr Rippon has now been sidelined, leaving his deputy, Liz Gibbons, in charge. And in the wake of the setting-up of the two inquiries into Savile, the organisation's director of news, Helen Boaden, has recused herself from any involvement in the further reporting of that massive and evolving story – and even of other pieces of BBC journalism relating to child abuse.

So when Newsnight commissioned the Stickler story in a desperate attempt to win back its reputation after the Savile fiasco, Ms Boaden had no oversight role. Instead Ms Gibbons reported to the Radio 5 Live chief, Adrian Van Klaveren, who was standing in for Peter Horrocks, the head of Global News, who himself would have been standing in for Ms Boaden but was on a pre-booked holiday.

Despite the potential for the story to set the BBC on a war footing with the Tory party by accusing one of its grandees of child abuse, Mr Entwistle appears to have known nothing about it.

Although the story was legalled by BBC lawyers and was referred to Mr Van Klaveren, the Director-General himself – like Ms Boaden – was recused from the story and left outside the loop. He didn't even watch the controversial piece as it was broadcast.

Theoretically that left at the head of the editorial chain of command Tim Davie, who was acting Director-General on Savile-related matters, and who has now temporarily taken over as the head of the organisation. However, The Independent understands the story was not referred to him.

Meanwhile at ITV... Schofield under fire

Pressure is mounting on ITV to take action against This Morning and its presenter Phillip Schofield following his live-television ambush of David Cameron with a list of alleged "Tory paedophiles". The names were visible to the cameras and the million-plus audience, and Schofield has apologised for that – but not for the stunt itself.

He has been reported by the Tory MP Rob Wilson to the broadcasting regulator, Ofcom. But ITV's lack of action is being increasingly contrasted with the turmoil at the BBC.

The political commentator Andrew Neil asked: "What have they done about This Morning and Schofield?" A number of other journalists and political figures have asked whether the ITV presenter should still be in his job when Mr Entwistle had been forced to resign.

ITV did not comment.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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

Recruitment Genius: Professional Sales Trainee - B2B

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: First things first - for the av...

Recruitment Genius: Account Executive - Graduate / Entry Level

£22000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital advertising infras...

Guru Careers: PR Account Director / SAM

£50 - 60k (DOE) + Benefits & Bonus: Guru Careers: A PR Account Director / SAM ...

Guru Careers: Research Analyst / Business Insight Analyst

£32 - £37K + extensive benefits: Guru Careers: Research Analyst / Business Ins...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific