BBC director of news “steps aside” ahead of Newsnight investigation report

Helen Boaden and her deputy Steve Mitchell have been asked to surrender their responsibilities pending the outcome of an internal review

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BBC director of news “steps aside” ahead of Newsnight investigation report
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Paul Jones

The BBC’s two most senior news personnel, director of news Helen Boaden and her deputy Steve Mitchell, have “stepped aside” pending the results of an internal review by the corporation into a decision not to air a Newsnight investigation into the Jimmy Savile child abuse allegations.

The news follows the resignation on Saturday of director general George Entwistle, just 54 days into his tenure, as a response to a report aired by the BBC2 current affairs show on Friday wrongly accusing a former politician of being involved in child abuse.

The BBC has declined to officially confirm the news but reported it on its website, saying a formal statement could be expected within the next few hours.

Boaden was director of news, and Entwistle was in charge of the corporation’s programme-commissioning arm BBC Vision, at the time of the decision not to broadcast the Savile piece. Entwistle told MPs he had had a brief discussion with Boaden about the Newsnight report but had not asked for further details.

Nick Pollard, former head of Sky News, will lead the inquiry into the decision to shelve the programme's investigation.

Ahead of the delivery of Pollard's report, Boaden’s editorial and managerial responsibilities for the BBC’s entire domestic and international news operation will be taken up by Fran Unsworth, head of newsgathering, while Ceri Thomas, editor of Radio 4's Today programme, will take over from Mitchell in his absence.

Tim Davie, BBC director of Audio and Music, has currently been appointed acting director general while BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten seeks to quickly find a permanent replacement.   

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