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Crisis At BBC Spreads As Two News Execs Step Aside

The crisis at the BBC is getting worse by the day: Today its top two news executives stepped aside – just days after the broadcaster's director-general resigned over a news program that wrongly accused a former lawmaker of child abuse.

The BBC reported that Helen Boaden and Steve Mitchell, the No. 1 and 2 news executives, respectively, had removed themselves Monday from making decisions "on some areas of BBC News output" during an internal review. The move came two days after Director-General George Entwistle became the BBC's shortest-serving chief. Here's more from the BBC:

"Mr Entwistle resigned after eight weeks as director general following the 2 November Newsnight report which led to former Tory treasurer, Lord McAlpine, being wrongly accused of child abuse in north Wales in the 1980s."

But the fact that he's leaving with a severance pay of more than $700,000 is sparking widespread criticism. The BBC again:

"The payment was described as "over-the-top" and "outrageous" by MPs as Parliament debated the fallout from the ex-director general's resignation.

"Culture Secretary Maria Miller said it was a matter for the BBC Trust but "reward for failure" was inappropriate.

"BBC chairman Lord Patten has insisted the payment was 'justified.'"

In a bid to stem the crisis of confidence at the venerable broadcaster, Tim Davie, the BBC's new acting boss, said he'd set up a "clear line of command" in the news division.

Vicki Barker is reporting on the story for NPR. Here's an excerpt from her report on Monday's All Things Considered:

"An independent inquiry is still looking into how Newsnight came to kill a report, last year, that would have exposed the late BBC star Jimmy Savile as a serial pedophile.

Then, this month, the show aired a piece mistakenly linking a senior politician to child molestation. Today, an investigation into that debacle concluded that basic journalistic checks weren't completed, in part because Newsnight's editorial processes had been weakened by the Savile crisis."

"Each day brings a new twist to the story," says George Carey, Newsnight's founding editor, in the ATC story. "It's almost incredible to think how many mistakes have been made in such a short time."

NPR's Philip Reeves reported on the crisis at the BBC for Monday's Morning Edition. Here's what he said this morning on the impact the two scandals could have on the broadcaster:

"This crisis is entwined with the earlier scandal over Jimmy Savile. The BBC is already under fire over a decision to drop an investigation - again by Newsnight - into Savile's alleged widespread child abuse. That's now the subject of multiple investigations. The BBC's mostly paid for by the British taxpayer. It enjoys a huge chunk of Britain's media market. Commercial rivals want the BBC cut down to size. They often gleefully highlight the BBC's blunders. This latest crisis is not a threat to the BBC's survival, but it has raised big questions about journalistic standards in the modern age."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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