Wednesday 13 December 2017

BBC to clarify chief's crisis role

Former BBC director general George Entwistle resigned over the
Former BBC director general George Entwistle resigned over the "unacceptable" Newsnight broadcast

The BBC has said it intends to clarify the role played by the director of BBC Northern Ireland in the Newsnight fiasco.

Peter Johnston, who has been with BBC NI since 1994, had some involvement before the programme which wrongly implicated a senior Conservative peer in a child sex abuse scandal was broadcast. The extent of his role has not yet been determined.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the BBC in Belfast said: "We can confirm that Peter Johnston was involved in decisions about the BBC Newsnight report on 2 November 2012.

"The sequencing of events around this report has been reviewed by Ken MacQuarrie and the BBC has now published a summary of findings and actions. The next stage of this process is now under way. It will, amongst other things, seek to clarify decision-making roles and responsibilities in relation to the Newsnight report.

"We expect that these investigations will be concluded as quickly as possible. In the meantime, we will not be making any further comment."

The broadcast in which Lord McAlpine was mistakenly identified led to the resignation of BBC director general George Entwistle on Saturday.

Peter Johnston is on the BBC's management board at national level. The 46-year-old, from Ballymena, Co Antrim, has a background in marketing and is understood to be on a salary of about £150,000.

A report by the BBC's Scotland director Ken MacQuarrie found that Newsnight failed to complete basic journalistic checks. It also claimed there was confusion about who had the ultimate responsibility for "final editorial sign-off" on the story.

Mr MacQuarrie concluded that Newsnight had been seriously weakened as a result of the editor having to step aside over the Jimmy Savile allegations and the departure of the deputy editor.

Mr Johnston said he was not considering his position. He said: "I have great faith in BBC journalism and that is the most important thing to concentrate on in these times."

Press Association

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