BBC Director General Quits: How the U.K. Media Covered It
LONDON - All major British newspapers on Sunday featured lead stories about the resignation of BBC director general George Entwistle in their print editions and on their web sites, while Sunday morning news shows also discussed the news that rattled the British TV industry Saturday night.
Entwistle, who had only taken over the top post at the U.K. public broadcaster in mid-September, stepped down amid a widening crisis at the public broadcaster. The BBC's standing has been shaken by allegations that late former BBC host Jimmy Savile had abused young people during his time at the broadcaster, including on its premises. And late this week, flagship news show Newsnight had to issue a retraction and apology after wrongly implicating a British politician in a child abuse case. The show had previously drawn criticism for last year dropping a report on the Savile affair.
Tabloid The Sun, part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., in its Sunday headline spelled out BBC in a new way - "Bye Bye Chump." Its second headline referenced the broadcaster by its nickname "Beeb," saying: "Bungling Entwistle quits as Beeb boss after fiasco of Newsnight paedo slur."
BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten in an appearance on Sunday's Andrew Marr Show warned that other British media organizations could benefit from a weakened BBC, vowing to appoint a new boss within weeks. "[The BBC's editorial strength] is bound to be under question from Rupert Murdoch's papers, let's be clear about that," he said.
British tabloid The Daily Mirror focused on the juicy aspects of the BBC top executive's resignation. "George Entwistle resigns: BBC director general steps down over Newsnight paedophile scandal," it titled online. Its print edition used the shorter headline: "Beeb Boss Quits."
News Corp.'s The Sunday Times quoted BBC chairman Patten who had late Saturday called the retracted Newsnight story "unacceptable shoddy journalism." The paper's headline read: "BBC Boss Quits Over 'Shoddy Journalism' at Newsnight." An editorial suggested Patten himself should consider departing, too. “Last night Lord Patten put his poodle out of his misery," it said. "If he has any sense of honor, he should take responsibility for promoting his creature and go, too."
The Guardian/Observer, meanwhile, focused on the leadership vacuum and damage to the broadcaster's reputation. "BBC in crisis as Entwistle quits over Newsnight fiasco," its headline said. Its story started off with the line: "The BBC has been plunged into the deepest crisis in its history with the dramatic resignation of its director general, George Entwistle, after just 54 days in the job."
The Telegraph played the news straight in its headline, which read: "BBC Boss Quits." Underneath that, it highlighted the Saturday night drama in two lead stories, one focusing on what led to Entwistle's fall, the other on Patten lamenting "unacceptable shoddy journalism." The first story highlighted the personal drama of the leader's departure. "George Entwistle said his position was untenable after a day of humiliation," it said.
The Independent's front page was also dominated by the Entwistle news. "The BBC in Crisis," it titled. "Out of touch. Out of his depth. Out of a job."
Comedian Stephen Fry, meanwhile, was one of the first British celebrities to comment on Entwistle's resignation. "Inevitable George Entwistle would fall on his sword," he said on Twitter. "Damned for stopping a Newsnight, damned for allowing one. A kind, wise man. Heigh ho."
Downton Abbey star Hugh Bonneville, who plays the Earl of Grantham in the ITV hit drama, also defended Entwistle and the public broadcaster. "BBC journalism is the best in the world. Usually," he tweeted. "Entwistle resigned where other leaders would not. Let's not forget either of these things."