MPs: BBC handling of Alan Yentob's interventions on Kids Company coverage 'reflects poorly on leadership' - Press Gazette

MPs: BBC handling of Alan Yentob's interventions on Kids Company coverage 'reflects poorly on leadership'

The BBC has been condemned by MPs for its handling of Alan Yentob's perceived efforts to influence coverage of Kids Company.

Yentob was creative director of the BBC and chairman of trustees at Kids Company last summer when the charity came under media scrutiny and closed.

At the time of the scandal, it emerged that Yentob was in the Today programme studio with a producer while Kids Company chief executive Camila Batmanghelidjh was being interviewed. He also contacted BBC Two's Newsnight while it was preparing to broadcast a report on the charity.

And in December, around four months after these perceived interventions, Yentob stood down as creative director of the BBC, saying his role at Kids Company was a "serious distraction". He remains editor and presenter of the BBC programme Imagine and in an unpaid role as chairman of BBC Films.

In a report today, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee condemned Yentob for both his senior role at Kids Company and his alleged attempts to influence BBC coverage of the controversy.

It said his interventions over media reports were "unwise at best, and deliberately intimidating at worst" and criticised the BBC itself for being too slow to address potential conflicts of interest.

The report said: "Mr Yentob was Chair of Trustees for 12 years. His actions in the weeks surrounding the charity’s collapse have received significant media attention, with allegations that he displayed a conflict of interest in his role at the BBC.

"Mr Yentob admitted that he stood behind the glass with the producer during a BBC interview with Ms Batmanghelidjh about the charity’s difficulties, and also made a phone call to another BBC journalist who was due to make a broadcast about the charity.

"Mr Yentob said that he was 'emotionally upset and engaged' by the coverage, and regrets this action 'if it was intimidating'.

"He has since resigned from his position as Creative Director at the BBC. Lord Hall of Birkenhead, BBC director general, said that Mr Yentob’s conduct was “improper” but had not affected BBC coverage of Kids Company."

The report went on: "Mr Yentob acknowledges his poor judgement in respect of his position at the BBC during the summer of 2015. His actions were unwise at best, and deliberately intimidating at worst.

"He has since resigned his main position at the BBC but he still retains substantial responsibilities within the organisation and oversees substantial budgets.

"It is not within the remit of this Committee to comment on the governance of the BBC, but the proper governance of conflicts of interest and standards of behaviour – particularly amongst its senior executives – is a very serious matter for any reputable organisation.

"That a senior figure could act in this way and it could take so long for action to be taken reflects poorly on the BBC’s leadership."

A BBC spokesman said: "As we've said before, BBC News considered whether Alan Yentob had influenced the BBC's journalism on the reporting of Kids Company and they concluded that he did not.

"The BBC led the way in reporting this story and our journalism has been impartial."

BBC's Newsnight was shortlisted, along with Buzzfeed, for investigation of the year at the British Journalism Awards for its Kids Company coverage. Its reporting on the closure of Kids Company was named as a finalist in the scoop of the year category of the RTS journalism awards last week



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