x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

BBC head of news and deputy step aside amid scandal fallout

Move comes as director's Dh2.6m payoff is criticised

LONDON // The BBC's news chief and her deputy have "stepped aside" while the broadcaster deals with the fallout from a child-abuse scandal, the broadcaster said yesterday.

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

Fran Unsworth, the head of newsgathering, is to assume Ms Boaden's duties and Ceri Thomas, the editor of BBC radio's Today news programme, will serve as deputy, the BBC said.

The move comes after the resignation on Saturday of the BBC's director general, George Entwistle, after a BBC news programme reported false allegations that a former top politician sexually abused children.

The corporation's governing body, the BBC Trust, confirmed on Sunday that Mr Entwistle would receive a payoff of £450,000 (Dh2.6 million), a year's salary.

It says the settlement took into consideration that Mr Entwistle would continue working on BBC business, including two inquiries in the child-abuse scandal.

But Conservative Party MP John Whittingdale, chairman of the House of Commons committee on culture, media and sport, said he was surprised by the settlement and called for an explanation.