BBC chief leaves after false claims

BBC's New Broadcasting House in central London. (Getty)

BBC's New Broadcasting House in central London. (Getty) (Credit: BBC's New Broadcasting House in central London. (Getty))

The head of news at the British Broadcasting Corporation stepped aside Monday after a program falsely accusing a former senior politician of child abuse sparked one of the worst crises in the publicly funded broadcaster's 90-year history.

Helen Boaden, director of BBC News, and her deputy Stephen Mitchell, stepped aside pending a review of why editors spiked the report last year on Savile, who was accused of abusing children on BBC premises.

The corporation was rocked by two news programs, one that falsely accused the politician which was broadcast this month, and another which alleged child sex abuse by a former star presenter, the late Jimmy Savile, but which was not aired.

The affair, which raised questions about ethics, competence and management at BBC, claimed the scalp of Director General George Entwistle and prompted its chairman to warn that the world's biggest broadcaster was doomed unless it reformed.

The saga has also called into question the role played by Mark Thompson, the former BBC director general who became the chief executive of The New York Times Monday.

"Everything is in play and I think this is becoming an existential threat to the BBC, not just in terms of the future of the corporation in its current form but in terms of the concept of public service broadcasting as a whole," a source close to the inner workings of BBC said.


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