BBC begins disciplinary action on flawed Newsnight report


An employee walks inside BBC headquarters at New Broadcasting House on November 12, 2012 in London, England. The BBC is poised to take disciplinary action against some employees after an episode of the current affairs programme 'Newsnight' on child abuse allegations contained "unacceptable" errors.


Peter Macdiarmid

The BBC announced that it would start taking disciplinary action against employees in connection with a Newsnight broadcast about child abuse that wrongly implicated a senior Conservative party politician.

An internal inquiry by the BBC concluded that the Newsnight broadcast that linked a "senior Conservative" politician – understood to be Lord McAlpine – to child abuse allegations contained "unacceptable" editorial failings, according to British newspaper the Guardian.

Sources within the BBC suggest that Liz Gibbons, the program's acting editor, and Adrian Van Klaveran, the supervising executive, will face a disciplinary process that could lead to them either being fired or exonerated.

A BBC report written by the company's Scotland director, Ken MacQuarrie, said "basic editorial checks were not completed," according to the Guardian.

CNN reported that the BBC aired an apology the day after the program aired, but that was not enough to contain the fallout. The BBC vowed on Monday to move quickly to strengthen the editorial process and restore public trust.

MacQuarrie noted that the program's editorial management structure "had been seriously weakened since the editor stood aside and one of the deputy editors left the organization," as a result of the earlier scandal relating to the recently deceased BBC television host Jimmy Savile.

More on GlobalPost: BBC head of news Helen Boaden quits amid child sex scandal that claimed George Entwistle

CNN noted that the BBC's executive board announced some actions to restore the public's trust in its journalism, including appointing Karen O'Connor to serve as acting editor of Newsnight and a return to a single management structure following the Savile scandal.

On Monday, two other BBC executives had stepped aside pending a review into the BBC's handling of the Savile case, including News Director Helen Boaden and her deputy, Steve Mitchell. The BBC clarified that they have nothing to do with the McAlpine accusations in the most recent Newsnight broadcast, according to CNN.

The New York Times noted that the latest debacle coming on the heels of the Savile scandal has plunged the news organization into a "bout of recrimination, public criticism and doubt over its ability to restore its image of probity and reliability."

The Daily Telegraph suggested that Peter Johnston, the director of BBC Northern Ireland, could also face disciplinary proceedings.

More on GlobalPost: BBC issues apology for false sex abuse report, Entwistle resigns