With Resignation, BBC Scandal Deepens

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The director general of Britain's BBC network has resigned following a controversy over a report on child sex abuse. This is just the latest in what has been months of bad publicity for the broadcaster. NPR's Phillip Reeves reports.



The head of the BBC has stepped down in the wake of that broadcaster's worst scandal in decades. After weeks of mounting pressure, its director-general, George Entwistle, has resigned after the network broadcast a story that falsely implicated a former politician of involvement in child sex abuse. And the BBC's governing body now says it wants a radical overhaul of the organization. NPR's Philip Reeves has more from London.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: This is about a blunder that will be cited in journalism classes for years. It happened at Newsnight, the BBC's award-winning flagship TV news show. Newsnight ran an item in which a man who was sexually abused as a child accused a senior British Conservative Party politician of being involved.

The show did not identify the politician. But the name of Alistair McAlpine, a former top adviser to Margaret Thatcher, was soon zinging around the Internet. Newsnight did not approach McAlpine before airing the film, nor did it show a photo of McAlpine to the victim.

When McAlpine's accuser eventually saw that photo, it was clear there had been a serious mistake. George Entwistle has been the head of the BBC for two months. He admits he knew nothing about the Newsnight film until after it aired. This serious lapse by what's generally considered one of the world's most trusted broadcasters has caused an uproar and cost Entwistle his job.

This scandal's arisen as the BBC'S already facing intense criticism over revelations that a now-dead BBC entertainer, Jimmy Savile, committed widespread child abuse. And Newsnight is under pressure over a film that it failed to run, exposing Savile's crimes. Philip Reeves, NPR News.

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