The cover-up of child-molestation scandals at British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Britain’s flagship broadcasting medium, continued to boil Sunday as its chairman called the organization a “ghastly mess.”
One day earlier, BBC Chairman Chris Patten, 68, stood outside the BBC’s expansive London headquarters with George Entwistle, director general, as Entwistle resigned after failing to clean up after the public relations tsunami that struck few weeks ago.
At the heart of the decades-old child molestation scandal is longtime BBC television host, Jimmy Savile, who died at 84 in 2011. Authorities suspect Savile may have sexually abused up to 300 young people in BBC studios, hospitals and children’s homes over many years. Savile, a British television staple, allegedly used his position as children charities advocate to approach vulnerable minors in the 1970s and 80s, according to a New York Times report.
“Does the BBC need a thorough structural overhaul? Of course it does,” the chairman of the BBC Trust, Chris Patten, said on “The Andrew Marr Show,” the BBC’s flagship Sunday morning talk show, after the resignation of the broadcaster’s chief executive.
Entwistle, at his post only eight weeks, became the subject of continued outrage largely due to fallout from a Nov. 2 report on the BBC “Newsnight,” program that incorrectly implicated a former Conservative Party politician in the growing pedophile scandal.
Alistair McAlpine, 70, who was wrongly tagged by “Newsnight” staff as being involved, has suggested he will seek damages against the media conglomerate. Upon his resignation, Entwistle said it reflected “unacceptable journalistic standards” and never should have been broadcast, referring the faulted “Newsnight” segment that failed to fact-check information that would have exculpated McAlpine.
British media commentators and pundits say appointing a new chief executive will not return BBC to its former status. Many question the need for a huge public-service broadcaster in an era of expanded media sources. At question is whether BBC should retain the advantages granted to it under its royal charter financed by a mandatory $230-a-year license fee paid by those who own television sets.
Currently the heavily-subsidized media organization has 23,000 employees, a $6 billion annual budget and dominates British broadcasting. BBC is headquartered in a billion-dollar complex.
The scandal has spread across the ocean to affect The New York Times, a left-leaning American newspaper located in its namesake. Entwistle succeeded Mark Thompson, who stepped down in September after eight years as director general at BBC to become chief executive of The New York Times.
Though he was director-general at BBC for years, Thompson denies knowing anything about the failed “Newsnight” investigation of Mr. Savile, plans to cancel it or even that it involved allegations of pedophilia. Thompson also denies ever having met Savile.
During a recent segment of “The Andrew Marr Show,” the BBC’s flagship Sunday morning talk show, popular host Jonathan Dimbleby said that because of the layers of bureaucracy between Mr. Entwistle and the “Newsnight” producers, “George was at the receiving end of nothing, when he should have known everything.”
Patten echoed that analysis on the Marr show when he said “there are more senior leaders in the BBC than in the Chinese Communist Party.”
However other sources, for example UK's Mail Online, have reported that Thompson's office was alerted about the child abuse claims.
Mark Thompson will head up the New York Times as of Monday.