Friday 27 April 2018

Turmoil at BBC worsens as news heads fight back

Gordon Rayner London

THE BBC's turmoil has worsened as two senior executives hired lawyers to refute a statement that they had decided to step aside from their jobs.

Helen Boaden, the director of news, and her deputy, Stephen Mitchell, were relieved of their duties in one of the first decisions made by the acting director general, Tim Davie.

The BBC claimed Ms Boaden had "decided that she is not in a position to undertake" her role until the results of a review of Newsnight's decision not to broadcast a film about Jimmy Savile were known.

But Robert Peston, the BBC's business editor, disclosed in his blog that "lawyers acting for Ms Boaden and Mr Mitchell have informed Mr Davie that they are quite capable of running BBC News, even with the uncertainty created by the . . . inquiry".

As the sense of rebellion within the BBC grew, another senior insider said the truth about Ms Boaden and Mr Mitchell was "not how the BBC have made it appear", adding: "They are not happy to be going at all."


However, Norman Smith, the BBC's chief political correspondent, said he had been told Ms Boaden and Mr Mitchell would not go "without a fight" if they were not reinstated following the review by Nick Pollard, the former head of Sky News.

Mr Peston predicted "widespread anger within BBC News at what will be seen as a pre-empting of the results of Nick Pollard's investigation".

He pointed out that neither Ms Boaden nor Mr Mitchell had anything to do with Newsnight's disastrous decision to make false claims linking a senior Conservative to child abuse, yet their removal appeared to have been a direct result of the 'Newsnight' film.

Mr Peston said many of his colleagues "believed Ms Boaden and Mr Mitchell ought to be put firmly back in charge of news, because of the perception that they would never have permitted the latest child abuse story on 'Newsnight'". Mr Davie and Chris Patten, the chairman of the BBC Trust, decided that the fact Ms Boaden and Mr Mitchell had withdrawn from decisions relating to child abuse or Jimmy Savile had created a "lack of clarity" within BBC News about who is in charge. He decided to move Ms Boaden and Mr Mitchell aside to remove any ambiguity about the editorial "chain of command". (©Daily Telegraph, London)


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