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BBC Director General Resigns

The Director General of the BBC, George Entwistle resigned last night as the crisis engulfing the corporation reached critical mass. A host of politicians, senior journalists and commentators had been queuing up over the course of the day to question both Mr Entwistle’s judgement and the tenability of his position after a catastrophic interview with John Humphrys on Radio 4’s flagship ‘Today’ programme.

In the wake of the Savile scandal, a depleted and demoralized Newsnight ran a story last week suggesting senior Tory figure Lord McAlpine was guilty of horrific child abuse. The witness at the centre of the piece recanted earlier this week after finally seeing a photo of the man he was making allegations against – an oversight that defies logic. As Newnight ran an excruciatingly apologetic edition on Friday night, questions were being asked about how an investigation that unraveled so drastically was allowed to go out on a programme that was already at the eye of a storm.

Entwistle’s performance on Today was effectively the first draft of his resignation. As he claimed he had no idea about the piece until the day after it was broadcast, despite the massive speculation leading up to it across the press and social media networks, Humphrys seemed staggered at his lack of curiosity and management, even asking ‘Don’t you read the papers?’

It was a self portrait of a man who could not control and steer the BBC through a crisis of this magnitude. A man who was not proactive in wrestling with the problems running through the organisation at a time of almost unprecedented scrutiny. His defence, that the editor in chief cannot sign off on every piece of journalism at the BBC seemed ludicrous – when the programme at the centre of various enquires over its editorial procedures threatens to unmask a senior politician as a child abuser, alarm bells should be ringing and the editor in chief should be monitoring the situation meticulously. He was already being described as InCurious George.

As various competitors crow over the crisis, it must be remembered that despite the failings the corporation, there is no other media organization in the world that investigates itself so effectively, and the death blow to Entwistle was dealt by one of the BBC’s own journalists, on one of its own programmes.

At 9pm last night, Entwistle called a press conference outside Broadcasting House, and standing alongside Chairman of the BBC Trust, Chris Patten, 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."

Tim Davie, currently director of audio and music at the corporation was named as the acting DG while the search for a new boss takes place.

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