BBC Settles Libel Case Over Mistaken Report That Forced Out Top Executive

12:59 AM PST 11/16/2012 by Georg Szalai

The $293,500 settlement is for a "Newsnight" report that had wrongly suggested a politician was involved in a child abuse scandal.

LONDON - The BBC has reached a settlement with a British politician who was wrongly accused by flagship news show Newsnight of being involved in a child abuse scandal.

The settlement with Lord McAlpine is worth $293,500 (£185,000), the Guardian reported. It said it is believed to be the biggest BBC payout in a libel case since a £500,000 payment in 2002 to an African diamond company that was wrongly linked to Osama bin Laden.

The mistaken Newsnight report led to the Saturday night resignation of BBC director general George Entwistle and has been the latest blow to the U.K. public broadcaster's reputation. It has also been shaken by sexual abuse allegations against late former Top of the Pops host Jimmy Savile.

"The settlement is comprehensive and reflects the gravity of the allegations that were wrongly made," the BBC said.

The Guardian highlighted that the politician hadn't pushed for a higher amount as the settlement payment will come out of the annual license fees British taxpayers must contribute to help finance the BBC.

When the settlement is confirmed in court, McAlpine will in a statement say that he still holds the BBC "in great esteem," according to the Guardian. The broadcaster will benefit from that comment as it tries to rebuild its reputation of editorial excellence.

Meanwhile, McAlpine's lawyer on Thursday also said that ITV morning show This Morning was on the list of targets for legal action from his client over false child abuse accusations.

U.K. media regulator Ofcom had Thursday morning announced investigations into Newsnight and This Morning. A host of the latter had on a recent episode tried to hand a list of abusers he had found online to Prime Minister David Cameron. Some names on the list were legible on-air.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com
Twitter: @georgszalai
 

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