BBC staff may face action as director general George Entwistle says he was NOT aware of Newsnight's report

 

BBC staff were tonight facing the prospect of disciplinary action amid growing anger over the broadcast of child abuse allegations which appears to have led to a former senior Conservative being falsely implicated.

The corporation's director general George Entwistle today admitted the Newsnight report which appears to have led to Lord McAlpine of West Green being falsely identified as a paedophile should never have been shown.

With ministers and MPs demanding an explanation as to why the latest crisis to hit the BBC had erupted so soon after the Jimmy Savile child abuse scandal, Mr Entwistle promised swift action against anyone found to be at fault.

An urgent report he commissioned from BBC Scotland director Ken MacQuarrie into the Newsnight report is due on his desk tomorrow.

"Further action will follow from that - disciplinary if necessary," he said.

However, Mr Entwistle was forced to defend his own position after he disclosed that he had been unaware of the Newsnight report until after it had been shown. But he said he would not be resigning over the issue.

MPs expressed concern that new procedures he put in place after the Savile affair - when the BBC was panned for not running a Newsnight report exposing the late DJ as a child abuser - had still not resolved the problems in the corporation's management structure.

The chairman of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, John Whittingdale, said someone would have to be held accountable for the latest fiasco.

"I certainly think somebody needs to take responsibility for this," he said.

The Newsnight report dramatically unravelled last night when child abuse victim Steve Messham said Lord McAlpine was not the man who had abused him when he was a teenager at a North Wales children's home in the 1970s and 1980s.

Although the programme, shown on November 2, had not named the peer - referring only to a senior Conservative from the Thatcher era - it quickly resulted in him being identified on internet blogs and social media sites.

Last night, with lawyers for Lord McAlpine indicating they were preparing to sue for defamation, the programme broadcast an on-air apology.

In back-to-back interviews this morning on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme and BBC1's Breakfast, Mr Entwistle acknowledged that the BBC was facing a "bad crisis of trust".

He said it was now vital to establish how a report which was so "fundamentally wrong" ever reached the screen, despite having been referred to lawyers and the BBC board of management.

Among the issues he said needed to be resolved was whether Mr Messham was actually shown a photograph of Lord McAlpine, and whether the peer had been given a chance to respond to the allegations.

Despite the storm over the dropping of Newsnight's Savile investigation, Mr Entwistle said he had not been alerted that the programme was planning to make fresh allegations over another public figure.

He said he had been unaware of a tweet 12 hours before the programme was broadcast, from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism - which worked on the report - suggesting it was going to identify a senior political figure.

"I didn't see that tweet. This tweet was not brought to my attention so I found out about this film after it had gone out," he said.

"In the light of what has happened here I wish this was referred to me, but it wasn't. I found out about the film the following day."

Even yesterday he said he had been unaware of a report in The Guardian naming Lord McAlpine and suggesting he was a victim of mistaken identity, because, he said, he had been preparing for a speech.

At one point during a bruising encounter with Today presenter John Humphrys, he was challenged as to why he failed to take a more active interest in what was happening - even though he was the BBC's editor-in-chief.

"So there is no natural curiosity, you wait for somebody to come along to you and say 'Excuse me director general, but this is happening and you may be interested'?" Mr Humphrys demanded.

"You don't look for yourself, you don't do what everybody else in the country does, read newspapers, listen to everything that's going on and say 'What's happening here?"'

Mr Entwistle said he only became involved if a programme was referred to him for his attention.

He insisted he had no intention of resigning, although he accepted his future now lay in the hands of his employers the BBC Trust.

"I am doing the right things to try and put this stuff straight. I am accountable to the Trust in that endeavour. If they do not feel I am doing the right things, then obviously I will be bound by their judgment," he said.

In a statement, the Trust said it had been a "deeply troubling episode" and that it expected Mr Entwistle to get to the bottom of what happened and take the "appropriate action" as quickly as possible.

Some MPs were openly questioning whether Mr Entwistle could carry on as director general.

Tory Rob Wilson, a prominent critic of the BBC over the Savile affair, said: "I think there are questions for George Entwistle about whether he is the right person to lead the BBC out of the difficulty and the crisis it finds itself in."

Mr Whittingdale said somebody would have to carry the can for what had happened - although he stopped short of calling for Mr Entwistle to resign.

"At the end of the day, the director general of the BBC is editor-in-chief. I would have expected a programme making as serious allegations as these to have gone to him for clearance," he said.

"This has done immense damage to the reputation of the BBC. I certainly think somebody needs to take responsibility for this."

Culture Secretary Maria Miller said events of the past days underlined the "vital importance of restoring credibility" in the corporation.

Labour deputy leader and shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman said it was clear something had gone "badly wrong" at Newsnight.

"The director general only took over the leadership of the BBC eight weeks ago, but he needs to show decisively that he is addressing the systemic problems which are in evidence here," she said.

In a statement tonight the trustees of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism said they were "appalled" at what appeared to have been a breach of its standards.

"To the extent that the principles of the bureau have been ignored by an involvement in this story, remedial action will be taken against those responsible. The trustees must ensure that due process is applied and are establishing the key facts," the statement said.

PA

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 General

Recruitment Genius: Building Manager / Head Porter

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Medical Copywriter / Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an awa...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Clerk / Debriefer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading temperature contro...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketer

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

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