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Top BBC figures acknowledge 'errors' in reporting scandals

By The New York Times

This article was published November 27, 2012 at 10:16 a.m.

Two of the most senior figures at the BBC said Tuesday that there had been “basic” and “elementary” failures of the organization’s journalism when it wrongly implicated a former Conservative Party politician in sexual abuse, compounding a scandal that cost the BBC’s director-general his job.

But, addressing a parliamentary panel, one of them, Chris Patten, the head of the supervisory BBC Trust, offered an unusually insistent defense of the former director-general, George Entwistle, whom he had hired, and who had been labeled hapless and bumbling by many politicians and newspaper columnists before and after his resignation Nov. 10.

“The easiest thing to do is to join in the general trashing of a decent man and I’m not going to do that,” Patten told lawmakers, describing Entwistle as “a decent man” who “doesn’t deserve to be bullied or have his character demolished.”

But Patten, Britain’s last governor of Hong Kong in the 1990s and a public figure of long standing, balked at questioning by one lawmaker, Philip Davies of the Conservative Party, who pressed him to provide an itinerary of his work schedule at the BBC.

“Certainly not,” he said. “I think it’s a thoroughly impertinent question.”

Patten, the head of the supervisory BBC Trust, and Tim Davie, the acting director-general, were addressing a parliamentary panel known for often aggressive interrogations in scandals at Britain’s newspapers and broadcasters. They were speaking just days before a separate inquiry into a phone hacking scandal, mainly at Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper holdings, is to deliver a long-awaited report that could lead to tighter regulation of the British press.

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