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BBC Director-General resigns after just 54 days in the job

BBC director general George Entwistle has resigned in the wake of the BBC Newsnight north Wales child abuse broadcast. Mr Entwistle – who was the director general for just two months – gave a statement outside Broadcasting House on Saturday night, explaining he had decided to do the “honourable thing” and step down.

He had been under pressure to resign in the wake of two controversial decisions by Newsnight, the first, not to broadcast a report exposing claims the late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile sexually abused young girls; and the second, to screen a film about allegations of historic child sex abuse in north Wales, which although it did not name him led to Tory peer Lord McAlpine being wrongly implicated.

Mr Entwistle said the “wholly exceptional” events of the past few weeks “have led me to conclude that the BBC should appoint a new leader”.  He apologised unreservedly to the former Conservative treasurer Lord McAlpine over the matter, saying the Newsnight film was “unacceptable” and should not have been broadcast. He also suggested disciplinary action could be taken over the matter.

In his resignation statement, Mr Entwistle said it had been an “honour” to serve as director general, adding: “While there is understandable public concern over a number of issues well covered in the media – which I’m confident will be addressed by the review process – we must not lose sight of the fact that the BBC is full of people of the greatest talent and the highest integrity. That’s what will continue to make it the finest broadcaster in the world,” he said.

The Chairman of BBC Trust Lord Patten said one of the tragedies about Mr Entwistle’s resignation is that he “wanted to do all the right things” – but this in the end actually undermined him. “He is a very, very good man – cerebral, decent, honourable, brave. And I’m afraid this would have overwhelmed a lot of people with those sorts of skills”.

Lord Patten said he is not stepping down, but says his job is to learn the lessons from the three reviews the BBC has put in place over the Savile claims, and to try to restore people’s trust in the corporation. He added the BBC does need a thorough, radical structural overhaul and he will be looking at who will be the next director general of the BBC. That person, he says, must have a good team around them.

Director of BBC Audio and Music Tim Davie is taking over as acting director general immediately. We understand he’s been holding the fort during the last few days while Mr Entwistle has been dealing with the situation.