BBC Chairman Rejects Criticism From BBC Host, Rupert Murdoch's Newspapers

George Entwistle
George Entwistle
 

LONDON - The host of BBC flagship news program Newsnight has blamed the public broadcaster's recent challenges that led to the resignation of director general George Entwistle on "bloated management" and "cowards and incompetents." 

The host, Jeremy Paxman, also argued that British public broadcaster's problems go beyond the show, which has been at the center of media attention in recent days.

Meanwhile, BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten rejected criticism from Paxman, Rupert Murdoch's British newspapers and other critics, saying he would stay in his post.

Entwistle resigned late Saturday after less than two months in the top job amid questions about the broadcaster's journalistic standards. Earlier in the day, he had to acknowledge that Newsnight had wrongly accused a British politician of child abuse. All the show's investigative work has been suspended until management looks at findings of a report, which was expected to be completed Sunday, about what went wrong.

The news program has already been in the spotlight after it recently emerged that it dropped an investigation into sexual abuse allegations against late former BBC music charts show host Jimmy Savile. Newsnight editor Peter Rippon has stepped aside temporarily while that decision is being reviewed.

"George Entwistle’s departure is a great shame," Paxman said in a statement obtained by the Guardian. "He has been brought low by cowards and incompetents. The real problem here is the BBC’s decision...to play safe by appointing biddable people."

He added that the problem was compounded by "a series of cuts on program budgets, while bloating the management."

Concluded Paxman: "That is how you arrive at the current mess on Newsnight. I very much doubt the problem is unique to that program. I had hoped that George might stay to sort this out. It is a great pity that a talented man has been sacrificed while time-servers prosper."

He said he would not issue any further statements for now.

Patten on Sunday told ITV News and Channel 4 that he does not agree with Paxman. Asked if he took the criticism as a reason to consider his own resignation, he said he wouldn't step down, but focus on investigating where the BBC's editorial processes have gone wrong.

Asked about calls for his head, including in an editorial from Murdoch's Times of London, he told Sky News in an afternoon interview that “I’m not going to this morning take my marching orders from Mr. Murdoch’s newspapers.” The Sun had titled "Bye Bye Chump" in its front page story on Entwistle's departure. Sky News is part of BSkyB, in which News Corp. owns a 39 percent stake.

Patten further told Channel 4 in the afternoon that "we are looking this afternoon into a report into how that Newsnight program was made." Those along with the Savile probes would likely lead to "some tough decisions, and those decisions may involve people’s jobs as well," Patten said.

But he also told ITV News that he may consider resigning his position if processes and staffing are not put in order after the reviews of Newsnight.  

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