The BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten has launched a staunch defence of the recently departed director-general George Entwistle, criticising the rest of the media for what he said amounted to character assasination.
Entwistle had been “regularly trashed” and “written off by large sections of the press as some sort of hapless or inadequate figure” since resigning, Lord Patten said, ahead of his own appearance before Parliament today to face questions about Entwistle’s £450,000 pay-off, in the wake of the Savile and McAlpine furores.
“I don’t remember very many people saying that when we appointed him,” the peer continued. “Given everything that went wrong, it was the right thing for him to go when he did. But that should in no way justify the way his reputation is now being traduced.”
Lord Patten, who will this morning give evidence to the House of Commons culture, media and sport committee, also suggested that he would seek a second term as chairman.
He said: “I’ll want to stay at the BBC as long as people think I can help to restore its reputation and to make it the really outstanding part of our creative industries that we know it to be,” and said he wanted to help the corporation face up to a digital future.
The BBC is slashing senior management from 3 per cent of the work force to 1 per cent and Entwistle had begun to look at the management problems before the scandal related to the allegations of child abuse by Jimmy Savile, Lord Patten said.
“The BBC is not rotten. The vast majority of staff have had nothing to do with the recent problems,” he said.
The BBC Trust will publish the results of the Pollard review into why the Newsnight film exposing Savile was axed next month.
Lord Patten said: “George was determined to deal with the problems of disparate silos and warring tribes. He wanted to establish a culture of self-criticism and self-awareness.”
He added: “The first step towards a brighter future for the BBC is to acknowledge these issues and to learn from them. This needs strong, stable leadership.”