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'BBC' Chief Quits After Saying TV Report Was Wrong

By Cassandra Vinograd

LONDON -- The BBC's top executive resigned Saturday night after the prestigious broadcaster's marquee news magazine wrongly implicated a British politician in a child sex-abuse scandal, deepening the crisis that exploded after it decided not to air similar allegations against one of its own stars who police now say was one of the nation's worst pedophiles.

In a brief statement outside BBC headquarters, George Entwistle said he decided to do the "honorable thing" and step down after just eight weeks in the job.

"The wholly exceptional events of the past few weeks have led me to conclude that the BBC should appoint a new leader," he said.

It was a rapid about-face for Entwistle, a 23-year BBC veteran who earlier Saturday had insisted he had no plans to resign despite growing questions about his leadership and the BBC's integrity in the wake of the scandals.

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Lawmaker John Whittingdale, who chairs a parliamentary committee on the news media, said Entwistle had no choice but to go, as the BBC's management appears to have "lost their grip" on the publicly funded organization.

"I think that what has happened in the last few days has immensely weakened his authority and credibility," Whittingdale said. "It would have been very difficult for him to continue in those circumstances."

The scandal comes at a sensitive time for Britain's media establishment, struggling to recover from an ongoing phone-hacking scandal which brought down the nation's best-selling Sunday newspaper, led to the arrests of dozens of journalists and prompted a judge-led inquiry into journalistic ethics and the ties between politics and the news media.

Kevin Marsh, a former senior editor of the BBC, said the resignation does little to re-establish public trust in the BBC, which is funded mainly by a tax on U.K. households that have televisions.

"The BBC asks the British public to pay its bills every year, and the only way it can do that is if the British public trusts the way it is spending its money," he said.

Entwistle took over as head of the BBC two months ago from Mark Thompson, who will become chief executive of The New York Times Co. (NYT) this month. The broadcaster was emerging from a difficult period marked by budget cuts, job losses and mounting calls to justify its 3.5 billion pound ($5.6 billion) budget.
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