Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - BBC in turmoil as three senior figures step down

A row over errors broadcast on the BBC current affairs programme Newsnight has led to the resignation of three senior figures at the corporation.

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 12 November

BBC in turmoil as three senior figures step down

A row over errors broadcast on the BBC current affairs programme Newsnight has led to the resignation of three senior figures at the corporation.

The BBC’s director general George Entwistle resigned late on Saturday night, saying it was “the honourable thing to do”.

His resignation was followed on Monday morning by the BBC’s director of news, Helen Boaden, and her deputy Stephen Mitchell – both of whom the BBC said had “stepped aside” until inquiries into the news reporting process at the BBC are concluded.

The Newsnight report that prompted the departures incorrectly implicated a Conservative peer in a case of child abuse.

Although this scandal closely follows an inquiry into why a report into the alleged child abuse by Sir Jimmy Savile was dropped by the same programme, reports suggest that the flagship news show will not be cancelled by the BBC.

Speaking prior to his resignation on BBC Radio 4, Mr Entwistle said such a move would be “disproportionate”.

The resignations were not without their own controversy; MPs have decried the decision of the BBC Trust to pay Mr Entwistle a year’s worth of salary in lieu of notice, despite him only spending 54 days in the post. John Whittingdale, chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport committee, said that people would be “surprised” that such a decision had been made, and added: “certainly I would want to know from the Trust why they think that’s appropriate.”

Despite all of this, former children’s minister Tim Loughton has told the BBC that the content of the programmes should not be forgotten amid the “deeply frustrating” focus on the media.

“We really mustn’t forget that this is about child abuse,” he said. “This is about vulnerable children and young people, going back many decades, who have been subject to pretty horrific abuse.”

Questions for discussion

  • Why is it important that we are able to trust news corporations such as the BBC?
  • The BBC is publicly funded. Do you think this makes a difference to our expectations of how the corporation is run?
  • Do you agree that resigning was the best thing for George Entwistle to do?
  • Have you ever been in a situation where you have had to face the consequences of your mistakes?

Related resources

Influencing attitudes

  • How much power does the press really have over our opinions? Find out with this lesson plan.

Funding and ownership in the TV industry

  • Discover how the BBC is funded and how it generates revenue.

Media ethics activity

  • Put your students in an editor’s shoes with these ethical dilemmas.

Making mistakes

  • Discuss trust, responsibility and forgiveness in this whole school assembly.

Further news resources

First News front page

  • Help your pupils understand the features of the front page of a newspaper.

Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

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