BBC’s news director, deputy ‘step aside’ in fallout over false sex abuse report

Posted on: 8:29 am, November 12, 2012, by

By the CNN Wire Staff

LONDON (CNN) — The British Broadcasting Corporation’s director and deputy director of news have “stepped aside” pending a review into the BBC’s handling of allegations of sex abuse surrounding its late TV presenter Jimmy Savile, the media organization said Monday.

It is the latest fallout concerning separate sex abuse claims in recent months that have rocked one of the world’s oldest and most respected media organizations.

The move follows the weekend resignation of George Entwistle as director general after the BBC’s Newsnight report that falsely implicated a former senior political official in a child sex scandal.

News director Helen Boaden and her deputy, Steve Mitchell, have been asked to “surrender all their responsibilities” pending the outcome of the review, the BBC said in a statement.

“The BBC wants to make it absolutely clear that neither Helen Boaden nor Stephen Mitchell had anything to do with the failed Newsnight investigation into Lord McAlpine,” the former political official, the statement said.

“Whilst recognizing this, the BBC believes there is a lack of clarity in the lines of command and control in BBC News as a result of some of those caught up in the … review being unable to exercise their normal authority.”

The BBC said it expects the two to return to their positions following the conclusion of the independent review set up by the media organization.

On November 2, BBC’s Newsnight aired the sex abuse claims against a senior political figure of the 1980s. Days later, the victim admitted he identified the wrong man.

The BBC aired on apology Friday, but it did little to contain the fallout from the false accusation.

It was the second major crisis to hit the BBC within months.

In late September, the BBC became embroiled in a scandal over its handling of sexual abuse allegations against Savile.

The scandal exploded amid revelations that Newsnight pulled a report into allegations against Savile ahead of a planned tribute to the late TV presenter by the news organization scheduled to air later this year.

Entwistle and others were called in front of lawmakers to answer for the scandal surrounding Savile, who authorities say was suspected of having sexually abused young women and girls, sometimes on BBC premises.

“Consideration is now being given to the extent to which individuals should be asked to account further for their actions and if appropriate, disciplinary action will be taken,” the BBC said.

Boaden was director of BBC News when the decision was made to pull the Savile report, the BBC reported.

“Ms. Boaden has overall editorial and managerial responsibility for UK-wide and global news and current affairs on radio, television and online,” according to a BBC report.

The news about Boaden came the same day the BBC announced it was reestablishing a single management team “to address the lack of clarity around the editorial chain of command.”

The announcement followed the findings of a BBC review into the Newsnight broadcast that falsely implicated the political official, said Sonia Cooper, the BBC’s chief press officer.

A public statement about the findings was expected later Monday, she said.

CNN’s Richard Allen Greene and Alexander Felton contributed to this report.

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