2 BBC executives step aside temporarily

Published Nov 13, 2012 at 04:00AM

LONDON — The BBC struggled Monday to contain a spreading crisis over its reporting of a decades-old sexual abuse scandal as two senior executives withdrew temporarily from their jobs following the resignation of the corporation’s director-general, a move that encapsulated the worst setback to the public broadcaster’s status, prestige and self-confidence for years.

The BBC’s website said its director of news, Helen Boaden, and her deputy, Stephen Mitchell, had “stepped aside,” the latest moves since a flagship current affairs program, “Newsnight,” wrongly implicated a former Conservative Party politician in accusations of sexual abuse at a children’s home in North Wales in the 1970s and 1980s.

The BBC management said that neither Boaden nor Mitchell “had anything at all to do with the failed ‘Newsnight’ investigation” of the politician, Alistair McAlpine. But it “believes there is a lack of clarity in the lines of command and control in BBC News” because of an inquiry into a separate “Newsnight” debacle — the cancellation of a program a year ago into allegations of sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile, a longtime BBC television host who died last year at age 84.