The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Lifestyle

November 12, 2012

BBC under pressure to restore trust after scandal

(Continued)

But then, "Newsnight" wrongly implicated a British politician in a sex-abuse claims program that aired Nov. 2.

The BBC didn't name the alleged abuser, but online rumors focused on Alistair McAlpine, a Conservative Party member. On Friday, McAlpine issued a fierce denial, and shortly after, the abuse victim interviewed by "Newsnight" admitted he had mistakenly identified his abuser.

The BBC apologized for airing the program, which Entwistle said he had not been made aware of. That stance drew incredulity from politicians and media watchers wondering if he was out of touch or inept. The criticism reached fever pitch, and Entwistle decided to resign Saturday. A day later, Chris Patten, the head of the BBC's governing body, called for a "thorough, radical structural overhaul" of the broadcaster.

THE BBC'S EVOLUTION

Some observers say the BBC's massive size and rapid growth have resulted in a decentralized structure without clear lines of responsibility, leaving the door open for shoddy journalism. But while today the BBC is a global brand, it started out with a simple mission in November 1922: to inform, educate and entertain.

It took on a crucial role in public life with the onset of World War II, when the service brought Churchill's famous speeches to the airwaves. The BBC expanded its overseas language services, and its radio programs became a lifeline of information — including even for Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's own command, according to the broadcaster.

Television took on a greater role within the organization after the war, hitting a milestone when 20 million viewers tuned in for Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953. The BBC expanded its offerings, launching current affairs program "Panorama" — still a hit today — and the first British soap opera.

The media behemoth's solid news foundation showed in the 1980s with its coverage of the Falklands War, the first Live Aid concert and the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Diana, which drew one of the largest TV audiences ever.

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