The BBC’s director-general, George Entwistle, has resigned over the broadcast of a Newsnight report about child sexual abuse, which led to allegations being made online about a Conservative peer.
Entwistle, who has been under fire in the media since news of the Jimmy Savile abuse scandal broke at the end of September, delivered a brief statement at Broadcasting House earlier this evening in which he declared that “stepping down” would be the honourable thing to do.
He said: “In the light of the fact that the director-general is also the editor-in-chief and ultimately responsible for all content; and in the light of the unacceptable journalistic standards of the Newsnight film broadcast on Friday 2 November, I have decided that the honourable thing to do is to step down from the post of director-general.
“The wholly exceptional events of the past few weeks have led me to conclude that the BBC should appoint a new leader.”
The BBC was forced to issue an apology on Friday after Steve Messham, who was questioned on Newsnight, admitted that he wrongly identified Lord McAlpine as the man who abused him in a Wrexham children’s home in the 1970s.
While Newsnight did not directly identify Lord McAlpine, the peer has said he intends to sue the BBC because its report led to him being identified on the internet.
Entwistle continued: “To have been the director-general of the BBC even for a short period, and in the most challenging of circumstances, has been a great honour.
“While there is understandable public concern over a number of issues well covered in the media – which I’m confident will be addressed by the review process – we must not lose sight of the fact that the BBC is full of people of the greatest talent and the highest integrity. That’s what will continue to make it the finest broadcaster in the world.”
Tim Davie, who was appointed as chief executive of BBC Worldwide last month and was due to take up the post in December, has now been made acting director-general of the BBC.