LONDON (AP) – The BBC’s top executive, George Entwistle, resigned Saturday night amid a flood of controversy over the broadcaster’s handling of child sex-abuse cases.
His resignation caps a difficult month for the broadcaster, which first came under fire for not airing allegations of child sex abuse committed by one of its star hosts, the late Jimmy Savile. Just weeks later, the BBC’s prestigious investigative program, “Newsnight,” wrongly implicated a British politician in a child sex-abuse scandal.
It was the same program that had earlier shelved a report into Savile.
Here are key developments in the scandal:
Oct. 29, 2011: Longtime BBC children’s television host Jimmy Savile dies at the age of 84. The eccentric, platinum haired entertainer, known for his garish tracksuits and Cuban cigars, is hailed as a true English eccentric when he is buried 10 days later. He had received a knighthood and numerous other honors.
December 2011: The long-trusted and publicly funded BBC pulls a “Newsnight” program that would have linked Savile to the repeated sexual abuse of children during his career at the broadcaster. Instead, the BBC shows tribute programs praising Savile, who had been active in numerous charities.
Sept. 17, 2012: George Entwistle named BBC director general, succeeding Mark Thompson, who is becoming chief executive of The New York Times Co. in November.
Oct. 2, 2012: “Newsnight” editor Peter Rippon writes a blog post saying the Savile program was shelved for editorial reasons, denies it was part of any BBC cover-up.
Oct. 3, 2012: The extended media silence about Savile’s sex abuse is broken with a documentary by the BBC’s main commercial rival, ITV. The broadcast exposes the dark side of Savile’s life, which had been rumored but not documented. The show prompts a probe by police, which later leads to a formal criminal investigation into alleged sexual abuse by Savile and others.
Oct. 12, 2012: With the police investigation producing many new leads, BBC director general George Entwistle announces the broadcaster will launch an official review of its culture and practices at the time of Savile’s offenses and investigate why the earlier “Newsnight” program was shelved.
Oct. 22, 2013: A BBC “Panorama” show airs, with reporters quizzing senior management about why they canned the bombshell program on Savile. BBC says Peter Rippon, “Newsnight” editor, will step aside pending an investigation into his decision to scrap the Savile story. The broadcaster also issues a correction to Rippon’s previous blog post, calling it “inaccurate.”
Oct. 23, 2013: Entwistle appears before British lawmakers to address the BBC’s handling of the Savile crisis. He acknowledged there had been “a problem of culture within the BBC” that allowed Savile’s behavior to go unchecked. The BBC also said it is investigating claims of sexual abuse and harassment against nine staff members and contributors, in addition to Savile.
Oct. 25, 2012: Metropolitan Police say there may be 300 potential victims of Savile and his associates as abuse reports increase. Savile is identified as one of the worst sex offenders in British history.
Oct. 28, 2012: Police arrest former glam rock star and convicted sex offender Gary Glitter as part of the investigation into Savile and his associates.
Nov. 2, 2012: BBC’s “Newsnight” show broadcasts an expose about child sex abuse in Wales in the 1970s and 1980s that includes allegations about an unnamed senior politician from the Margaret Thatcher era.
Nov. 9, 2012: Alistair McAlpine, a Conservative party member of the House of Lords named in Internet chatter as the culprit, comes forward to deny the charges and threaten legal action against the BBC. The person who made the accusations in the “Newsnight” broadcast, Steve Messham, then apologizes and said it was a case of mistaken identity. BBC apologizes and suspends “Newsnight” investigations.
Nov. 10, 2012: BBC’s top executive, director-general George Entwistle, resigns after his attempts to explain and apologize for the situation fail to quell mounting criticism of the flagship broadcaster’s handling of the sex abuse scandal.
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