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LONDON – Acting BBC director general Tim Davie on Monday called the BBC a “precious institution” and promised to give the broadcaster “the clarity and leadership it deserves in the next few weeks.”
“My job now is to get a grip of the situation,” he said in a BBC News interview. While 99 percent of BBC output is of the highest quality, he said the appointment earlier Monday of a new Newsnight acting boss was key to stabilizing the flagship news show and ensuring all output is trustworthy.
“It must be clear who’s running the news operation,” he also said about a temporary news reshuffle announced earlier in the day.
Asked to describe the current crisis, he said: “It has been a very difficult episode. And the BBC is all about trust. The BBC needs to be trusted. If we don’t have that, we have nothing.”
He declined to comment on the criticism about the big Entwistle payout. “That one is a matter for the BBC trust. It is not my decision,” Davie said.
“I need a little bit of time” to look through recommendations before making further decisions,” he said, promising he would “not act quickly and be unreasonable.” Disciplinary action against some executives and staff is possible, but it is too early to say if it would happen, he added.
Davie was expected to make his rounds on the TV news circuit following the BBC News appearance, including interviews on Sky News, part of BSkyB, in which Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. owns a 39 percent stake, and others.
In a memo to staff obtained by the Guardian, he said: “The last few days and weeks have been exceptionally tough for the BBC.”
Davie called Saturday night’s surprise departure by George Entwistle after 54 days as director general “a sad moment – for George and the whole BBC.”
At BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten’s request, “I am now acting director general while the process of agreeing a permanent successor begins,” Davie continued. “The details of how this will be done are still to be confirmed by the Trust, but Lord Patten has been clear that it will be quick.”
Davie promised to provide some stability in the meantime. “The BBC is a precious institution and I am determined to give the BBC the clarity and leadership it deserves in the next few weeks,” he wrote.
Davie also addressed his previously announced appointment to head up commercial arm BBC Worldwide as of December. “In terms of BBC Worldwide, John Smith continues to lead as CEO until the end of November,” he wrote in his memo, according to the Guardian. “When we know the process for appointing a permanent DG, I can be clearer on when I will transition to CEO of Worldwide.”
“What I will also do is continue what George set out – to work tirelessly on getting rid of anything that gets in the way of delivering the best of British creativity to our audiences. There will be no handbrake turn,” concluded Davie. “You can expect to see management pulling together as one team, focused on tackling the problems the BBC currently faces head on. But I also expect you to continue to make the programs and services that our audiences love and that make the BBC unique.”
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