The BBC’s new boss has apologised for the corporation’s “disappointing” Diamond Jubilee coverage, but blamed the weather.
George Entwistle became Director-General on Monday, despite heavy criticism for his role in overseeing the BBC’s television coverage of June’s Thames Pageant to mark the Queen’s 60 years on the throne.
He admitted errors in the production of the showpiece and went on to outline his plans for encouraging more women to present factual programmes.
The corporation was accused of dumbing down the reporting of the spectacular river parade, which featured more than 1,000 boats but was soaked with rain and sparked thousands of viewers’ complaints over factual errors and “inane” commentary.
Mr Entwistle said today: “Let me tackle the pageant head on. It was disappointing and I would be happy to add my apologies to those already articulated by BBC people, particularly about the factual mistakes we made. One of the key things for the essence of the BBC to get its facts straight.”
But he added: “We were genuinely thrown out of our stride by the weather.”
Mr Entwistle, a former director of BBC Vision and ex-editor of Newsnight who took over from Mark Thompson as the BBC’s top executive, told the Radio 4 Today programme that preparation was essential, and admitted the tone and balance of the coverage was wrong.
He also said women presenters would be given the same opportunities as men, saying the organisation had worked hard on “getting more women to present our factual programmes” in the last few years.
“The key is to find people who have the right things to say, have expertise and bring them in,” he added. “I know the BBC has to be better in this regard.”
But he said the solution was not “turfing out a whole load of blokes who might be doing their jobs brilliantly with a view to getting women in”.
Mr Entwistle said pay for top executives at the corporation was previously too high, but pointed out that his £450,000 salary was almost half that of his predecessor.
Yesterday he unveiled his vision for “a more creative” corporation as he announced a slimmed-down management structure and the departure of one of his rivals for the top job, chief operations officer Caroline Thomson.