BBC1 controller would quit if reprimanded by director

Latest fallout from queen footage

BBC1 controller Peter Fincham has said that he will resign over the growing royal documentary row if he is criticized by BBC director general Mark Thompson in an internal investigation of the matter.

Speaking on the BBC news program "Newsnight," he told presenter Gavin Esler that he thought resignation would be a "disproportionate" response for showing reporters footage from a forthcoming docu, incorrectly edited to show the queen storming out of a photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz.

But he conceded that if he lost Thompson's confidence in the matter, he would have no choice but to quit.

"If somebody above me, if the director general of the BBC, comes to me and says, 'I think you must resign,' then I will of course resign," he told the news and current affairs show.

"I'll explain again — a mistake has been made, which of course as the controller of the channel I take responsibility (for) … but I think (resignation is) disproportionate and this is something we can move on from," he said.

The issue is part of a growing sense of concern regarding the BBC's editorial accuracy and escalated Thursday when the BBC's governing board, the BBC Trust, said that the director general would have to appear before them Wednesday to explain the matter.

The pubcaster this month was fined for the first time in its history for faking a winner on kids program "Blue Peter."

Asked if he should quit before being requested to do so, Fincham told "Newsnight": "I don't think I should resign, to be honest, and nobody's suggested to me that I should resign."

The controversy began Wednesday at the BBC1 fall- season launch hosted by Fincham. The former Talkback Thames CEO led the launch with footage from the forthcoming docu "A Year With the Queen," produced by "Faking It" producer RDF Media, which was given unprecedented access to the monarch in her 80th year.

"Definitely a memorable bit is Leibovitz getting it wrong and the queen losing it a bit and walking out in a huff," Fincham told reporters.

The clip showed a scene in which the queen is asked by Leibovitz to take off her tiara and velvet cloak for the picture.

The monarch is shown replying: "Less dressy? What do you think this is?" The next scene showed her walking away, clearly cross, complaining to an assistant and her page: "I'm not changing anything. I've done enough dressing like this, thank you very much."

But the BBC was forced to admit that the way in which the scenes had been spliced was misleading — and that the scene in which the queen complains to her retainer had been filmed before, not after, the photo shoot.

The pubcaster has issued a statement saying that producer RDF had taken the blame for the incident and that Fincham had acted "in good faith" over the matter.

"The extracts shown from 'A Year With the Queen' were supplied by RDF, who had made an early assembly of the footage several months ago. This assembly was never intended to be seen by the public or the press," the pubcaster said. "Unfortunately, this assembly was given in error to the BBC personnel preparing the BBC1 autumn launch tape. RDF did not have an opportunity to review the BBC1 launch tape but would like to apologize to the queen and Annie Leibovitz for this error.

"Peter Fincham used the sequence in good faith without any knowledge that the error had been made," it added.

But industry insiders said the situation will add to growing questions about the pubcaster's editorial integrity and the lack of oversight of powerful independent producers by BBC execs. Others have gone further, casting doubt on the BBC and RDF's explanation of the way the footage was assembled.

"Season launches are a major event. It beggars belief that the BBC would have shown a clip that they hadn't had checked," one former staffer said.

The pubcaster initially contacted reporters to ask them not to use stills or footage of the docu that had been released as part of the press materials accompanying the launch. But it later allowed news broadcasters to show the scene.