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LONDON – The chairman of the BBC Trust in latest TV interviews predicted resignations at the U.K. public broadcaster amid probes in the wake of the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse scandal. And he said new BBC director general George Entwistle and others have questions to answer in connection with the scandal, which he called a “tsunami of filth.”
The chairman, Lord Patten, has so far defended Entwistle and the independence of the BBC, but he has in recent days come under pressure to demonstrate that he is asserting his authority in the wake of the scandal and can help the BBC move beyond it.
Patten told ITV News late Thursday that he would be “not surprised” if there were resignations in the wake of the allegations that Savile, the late former host of BBC music charts show Top of the Pops, sexually abused women, including during his time at the broadcaster. The Guardian reported the comments, in which Patten didn’t specify any names or signal which parts of the BBC could be affected.
But BBC news executives have come under fire amid a debate over why news show Newsnight last year dropped an investigation and planned report into Savile.
Doing the TV circuit, Patten also told a BBC news show that Entwistle, who took over the day-to-day management of the public broadcaster only last month, has been hit by a “tsunami of filth.” He said it has left “terrible damage” to the reputation of the BBC.
Patten also told Sky News that Entwistle and other top executives have “legitimate questions to answer.” Entwistle on Tuesday appeared in front of a parliamentary committee to answer questions about the Savile case and how the BBC handled it.
British politicians, meanwhile, continue to chime in on the Savile scandal and the BBC’s handling of it.
The Guardian reported that Paul Farrelly, a Labour Party member of the British parliament’s culture, media and sport select committee, said Thursday that Entwistle “had not demonstrated so far” that “he can take a grip.” But Labour leader Ed Miliband said he did not think that Entwistle should resign over the scandal.
Meanwhile, New York Times Co. chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. has in a staff memo expressed his support for incoming CEO and former BBC director general Mark Thompson. He “possesses high ethical standards and is the ideal person to lead our company,” he said in an internal email quoted by the New York Times. Sulzberger added that he was satisfied that Thompson “played no role” in the decision to cancel the Newsnight report into the Savile abuse allegations.
Thompson is scheduled to start his new job on Nov. 12.
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