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BBC boss resigns, citing false report on sex abuse


George Entwistle has quit his post as director general of the British Broadcasting Corporation, two months after taking up the job. Entwistle said a mistaken report on a flagship news show prompted his decision.

George Entwistle announced his decision to quit late on Saturday outside the BBC's London headquarters. Already under fire over allegations that a star BBC TV host, the late Jimmy Savile, had sexually abused children, Entwistle came under increasing pressure after a November 2 report on the flagship "Newsnight" investigative program.

The November 2 report alleged that a senior Conservative politician had sexually abused a victim speaking to the show. The supposed offender was not named on Newsnight, but online rumors quickly pointed to Alistair McAlpine, a member of the House of Lords. McAlpine denied the claims and the victim later retracted his story, saying he had wrongly identified the offender.

Entwistle said he had decided to quit "in the light of the unacceptable journalistic standards of the Newsnight film," because he was ultimately the editor in chief.

"I have decided that the honorable thing to do is to step down from the post of director general," Entwistle said.

Compounding the problems

The 90-year-old, primarily state-funded broadcaster was already reeling from a child sex scandal prior to the November news story.

The Newsnight report was compiled as part of the coverage following separate allegations of widespread sex abuse leveled at the late BBC star presenter Jimmy Savile. Rival broadcaster ITV had aired the allegations against Savile. Police in Britain said in October they were investigating complaints from around 300 people who had said they were abused by the celebrity host of a show called "Jim'll Fix It," which asked kids to write in with their dreams, promising to make some of them come true in return.

The allegations were combined with suggestions of a possible cover-up within the BBC, most notably of a story being prepared for Newsnight shortly after his death that was apparently shelved before the editing process.

Entwistle had appeared before a parliamentary committee in October to answer questions on what he and his colleagues at the BBC knew about Savile's past, before and after the public revelations gathered pace.

Entwistle took up the post at the head of the BBC on September 17 this year, replacing Mark Thompson who spent eight years in the job.

msh/ccp (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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