The Straits Times
Published on Nov 10, 2012

Abuse report was 'fundamentally wrong': BBC chief


LONDON (AP) - The BBC's director general said on Saturday it should not have aired a report that wrongly implicated a politician in a child sex-abuse scandal, admitting that the programme further damaged trust in a broadcaster already reeling from the fallout over its decision not to air similar allegations against one of its star hosts.

Mr George Entwistle's comments followed an embarrassing retreat for the BBC, which apologised on Friday for its Nov 2 Newsnight broadcast on alleged sex abuse in Wales in the 1970s and 1980s. In the programme, victim Steve Messham claimed he had been abused by a senior Conservative figure. The BBC did not name the alleged abuser, but online rumours focused on Mr Alistair McAlpine, who issued a fierce denial on Friday and threatened to sue.

Mr Messham then said he had been mistaken about his abuser's identity and apologised to Mr McAlpine, prompting fury over the BBC's decision to air the report and the suspension of investigative programmes at Newsnight.

"We should not have put out a film that was so fundamentally wrong," Mr Entwistle told BBC radio on Saturday. "What happened here is completely unacceptable."