GUARDIAN, BBC, REUTERS, INDEPENDENT
LONDON - Two more top BBC news executives stepped aside Monday, as the British broadcaster faces a spiraling scandal over two separate bungled reports involving pedophilia.
News chief Helen Boaden and deputy Stephen Mitchell have been put on leave following the uproar over the November 2 airing of a report that wrongly implicated Thatcher-era Conservative politician Alistair McAlpine in a child abuse scandal in Northern Wales, the Independent reported.
This follows Saturday’s resignation of the BBC director general, George Entwistle, less than two months after taking over the top post. The Guardian reported that Entwistle will receive one year’s salary upon departure, even though he was in charge for just 54 days. The office of Prime Minister David Cameron has reportedly characterized the payout as “hard to justify,” but a matter for Entwistle’s conscience.
Last week, Cameron expressed his worries that unproven allegations of child abuse could turn into a “witchhunt,” particularly against those who are gay.
The BBC specified that Boaden and Mitchell were not involved in the editing of the erroneous Newsnight report, though they have been linked to the shelving of an earlier program that had investigated child sex abuse claims against former presenter, the late Jimmy Savile.
Following Savile’s death last year, while programs aired celebrating the longtime BBC personality, the broadcaster axed a Newsnight investigation into claims that the comedian had abused hundreds of teens and children. Soon after, rival ITV broadcaster aired its own investigation into Savile's alleged crimes.
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(photo - Kristen M)
The BBC's chairman Chris Patten has called for a radical overhaul of the venerable British Broadcast Corporation, and a new director general is expected to be appointed in the coming weeks.
The scandal risks touching another top news organization, as Entwistle’s predecessor, Mark Thompson is set to take over as CEO of The New York Times Company on Monday.
Thompson, who ran the BBC for eight years, had taken over during the broadcaster's last crisis, a report alleging government impropriety during the buildup to the war in Iraq.
Thompson says he was not told about the gravity or extremity of the claims; however, Entwistle’s exit and acceptance of responsibility for editorial decisions as director general raise the question of Thompson's own responsibility.
Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger has dismissed calls to forego Thompson as CEO in order not to drag the US company into the scandal.