Although he had not known about the Newsnight report that falsely implicated a former leading Tory as being involved in a child abuse scandal, Entwistle said he was the man “ultimately responsible for all content” at the BBC, and that he was stepping down “in light of the unacceptable journalistic standards” that had led to the programme.
Although the man had not been named in the report, he was identified as the subject on social media websites in the days following it. The key witness in the report, Steve Messham, had been shown a picture of his abuser by police but had wrongly identified him. This mistake had not been checked by Newsnight journalists, an error that forced Entwistle into quitting.
On Saturday morning, Entwistle said he was not aware of the programme before it was broadcast, nor had he seen newspaper reports from that morning saying it was based on mistaken identity.
The resignation capped a tumultuous 54-day tenure as director-general for Entwistle, who had been grilled just weeks earlier over the BBC’s handling of the Jimmy Savile scandal.
As Entwistle left, Tim Davie was made interim boss. The appointment was seen as a surprise, given the former head of marketing’s lack of journalistic experience. An appointment will be made within weeks.
WHO’S NEXT FOR BBC TOP JOB?
ED RICHARDS CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF OFCOM
The former adviser to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown was made head of the broadcasting regulator in 2006.
CAROLINE THOMPSON EX-CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER
Left the BBC after narrowly losing out to Entwistle in the summer. Would be the first female director-general.
TIM DAVIE ACTING DIRECTOR-GENERAL
Came to the BBC as head of marketing in 2005. His lack of journalism experience could count against him.
HELEN BOADEN DIRECTOR OF BBC NEWS
An outside shot. Boaden is seen as a capable director but may be too close to the scandal to be a viable candidate.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS LEADING TO DIRECTOR-GENERAL'S DOWNFALL
Newsnight drops Jimmy Savile investigation after his death in October
4 July 2012
Former head of BBC channels George Entwistle announced as successor to Mark Thompson
Entwistle becomes new director-general on £450,000 salary
Newsnight editor Peter Rippon says in BBC blog that Savile investigation was dropped due to editorial reasons after lack of evidence of police failings
After allegations made against Savile in press, Entwistle announces separate reviews into dropping of Newsnight investigation and culture at BBC when Savile was employed
Rippon steps aside while review into Newsnight investigation is conducted. BBC issues correction to his 2 October blog post, saying it was "inaccurate and incomplete"
Culture Select Committee grills Entwistle, who denies BBC cover up and says BBC bosses did not suppress Newsnight investigation. Ex-director general Mark Thompson says he was not formally notified of report
Newsnight report sees victim Steve Messham allege that leading Thatcher-era Conservative politician abused him in 1980s. Newsnight does not name man but internet speculation implicates a specific individual
The named individual denies reports and Messham apologises for mistaken identity, saying he was shown wrong picture by police. BBC apologises for Newsnight report
Entwistle admits he did not see and was not aware of Newsnight report, Nor of newspaper articles claiming it was based on mistaken identity. He resigns after 54 days in the job