The director and the deputy director of news at the BBC have been asked to resign after serious questions have been raised about their handling of a controversial sexual abuse investigation. Helen Boaden and her deputy Steve Mitchell were both "in the chain of command" when the network decided not to air an episode of the popular Newsnight program that was looking at sexual abuse claim made against former BBC personality, Jimmy Savile. Despite decades of work as a popular presenter for the broadcaster, hundreds of allegations of child sexual abuse that were made against Savile only became public after his death last year.
Boaden and Mitchell were not involved in the second Newsnight program that erroneously accused another popular British figure of sexual abuse in the 1980s. However, with multiple investigations being made into the news department's decision making—and with Boaden and Mitchell having to relinquish some of their duties while the inquiries were made—a decision came down to re-establish a firm line of management control by asking the pair to resign. Just two days ago, the director general of the BBC, George Entwhistle, was also forced to resign after just two months on the job because of his role in the second Newsnight program.
The hope is that the appointments of new interim directors at the news division will restore a bit of order to an organization in disarray. Multiple investigations into the handling of these and other stories have revealed a "lack of clarity" about who is calling the shots at the BBC and the ongoing furor only increased uncertainty and lowered morale, making it harder for those still working there to do their jobs. However, there is still the fear that more firings and resignations are on the way. (Just seconds after this post first published, it was announced that Iain Overton, the director of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism resigned.)
The scandals have even reached into American media because Entwistle's predecessor, Mark Thompson, left the BBC to become CEO of The New York Times. The Times confirmed today that despite questions about his possible involvement in the Savile story, Thompson will indeed begin work at his new job on Monday, as planned.