Chris Patten, who has absorbed some of the criticism for the BBC’s handling of the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse revelations and subsequent Newsnight scandal last year that rocked the UK pubcaster, has resigned from the post he has held since 2011. His contract was set to expire in April 2015. Vice Chairman Diane Coyle will take over as Acting Chairman until a successor is appointed. Patten cited recent successful heart surgery last month as the reason for his departure, saying in a memo that “On the advice of my doctors, however, and having consulted my family and friends, I cannot continue to work at the same full pace as I have done to date, and that I should reduce the range of roles I undertake. On this basis I have decided with great regret to step down from much the most demanding of my roles — that of Chairman of the BBC Trust.”
In the pubcaster’s last annual report ending made public in July, Patten said the BBC “seriously let down both itself and license fee payers. Trust in the institution took a hit as a result, although it has begun to recover” from the sex abuse scandal, for which the broadcaster spent about £5M in investigations. Executive payouts also received criticism after former general director Mark Thompson who left in September 2012 to be CEO and president of The New York Times Co., and George Entwistle who left two months later after just 54 days on the job amid the Savile revelations, took with them hefty exit packages. That helped offset the BBC’s strong showing covering the hometown London Summer Olympics.
Said BBC Director-General Tony Hall of Patten’s announcement today: “I have enjoyed working with Chris over the last year; he is a staunch believer in the BBC and he has brought his vast experience to the role of Chairman of the BBC Trust. He has steered the BBC through some of its most difficult days. In undertaking this role he brought unrivalled experience, wisdom, and an overwhelming desire to ensure that the BBC remains the best public service broadcaster in the world.”