BBC says its news chief, her deputy 'step aside'

The BBC

A general view of the BBC headquarters in London, Sunday, Nov, 11, 2012. The head of the BBC's governing body said Sunday the broadcaster needs a radical overhaul following the resignation of its chief executive in wake of a scandal over a botched report on child sex-abuse allegations. Chris Patten vowed to restore confidence and trust in the BBC, which is reeling from the resignation of George Entwistle and the scandals prompting his ouster. Entwistle resigned Saturday night amid a storm of controversy after a news program wrongly implicated a British politician in a child sex-abuse scandal, deepening a crisis sparked by revelations it decided not to air similar allegations against one of its own stars.(AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

LONDON (AP) — The BBC's news chief and her deputy have "stepped aside" while the broadcaster deals with the fallout from a child abuse scandal that forced its director-general to resign, the broadcaster said Monday.

Helen Boaden, the BBC's director of news and current affairs, and her deputy, Stephen Mitchell, have handed over their responsibilities to others for the time being "to address the lack of clarity around the editorial chain of command," the corporation said.

"Consideration is now being given to the extent to which individuals should be asked to account further for their actions and if appropriate, disciplinary action will be taken," the statement said.

The BBC, meanwhile, faced criticism for agreeing to a 450,000 pounds ($715,000) payoff — a year's salary — for George Entwistle, who resigned as director-general on Saturday after a BBC news program bungled reports that powerful Britons sexually abused children.

Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman said Monday the payoff for Entwistle, who led the BBC for just 54 days, was "hard to justify."

"Clearly, it is hard to justify a sizeable payoff of that sort," Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman Steve Field told reporters, but added it was for the BBC to justify the decision.

However, the prime minister gave his support to Chris Patten, the embattled chairman of the BBC Trust, the corporation's governing body.

"The important thing is for Chris Patten to lead the BBC out of its present difficulties," Field told reporters.

The multi-faceted crisis stems from allegations that the late Jimmy Savile, a BBC entertainment star, was a serial sexual abuser of underage girls. Newsnight, a BBC news program, was working on an investigation which was shelved last year by an editor, and the BBC subsequently went ahead with a year-end tribute program to Savile.

Earlier this month, the same news program wrongly implicated a British politician in sex-abuse claims. The program did not identify the politician but the name quickly became known.

The BBC said it wanted "to make it absolutely clear that neither Helen Boaden nor Stephen Mitchell had anything at all to do with the failed Newsnight investigation" which linked a politician to allegations of sexual abuse.

The statement suggested that both were too busy dealing with various inquiries to give full attention to their jobs.

Following the conclusion of a review of BBC management's role in the failed Newsnight investigation, Boaden and Mitchell "expect to then return to their positions," the BBC said.

___

AP reporter David Stringer contributed to this report.
Associated Press
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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