Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

BBC looks to clarify manager's role

BBC Northern Ireland director Peter Johnston had some involvement with decisions about the Newsnight programme broadcast on November 2

The BBC has said it intends to clarify the role played by the director of BBC Northern Ireland in the Newsnight fiasco.

Peter Johnston, who has been with BBC NI since 1994, had some involvement before the programme which wrongly implicated a peer in a child sex abuse scandal was broadcast. The extent of his role has not yet been determined.

In a statement issued on Monday night, a spokeswoman for the BBC in Belfast said: "We can confirm that Peter Johnston was involved in decisions about the BBC Newsnight report on 2 November 2012.

"The sequencing of events around this report has been reviewed by Ken MacQuarrie and the BBC has now published a summary of findings and actions. The next stage of this process is now under way. It will, amongst other things, seek to clarify decision-making roles and responsibilities in relation to the Newsnight report.

"We expect that these investigations will be concluded as quickly as possible. In the meantime, we will not be making any further comment."

The broadcast in which the peer was mistakenly identified led to the resignation of BBC director general George Entwistle on Saturday.

Mr Johnston is on the BBC's management board at national level. The 46-year-old, from Ballymena, Co Antrim, has a background in marketing and is understood to be on a salary of about £150,000.

A report by the BBC's Scotland director Ken MacQuarrie found that Newsnight failed to complete basic journalistic checks. It also claimed there was confusion about who had the ultimate responsibility for "final editorial sign-off" on the story.

Mr MacQuarrie concluded that Newsnight had been seriously weakened as a result of the editor having to step aside over the Jimmy Savile allegations and the departure of the deputy editor.

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