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'Ghastly mess' at BBC: Ex-chief's pay questioned, more quit amid sex scandal

After being accused of covering up former BBC star Jimmy Savile's sexual abuse, the BBC falsely reported that a Margaret Thatcher-era politician had sexually abused children, leading to the resignation of the network's chief and the arrest of a former producer. NBC's Michelle Kosinski reports.  

LONDON -- The two most senior figures at BBC News “stepped aside” Monday, as the public broadcaster revealed that the corporation’s outgoing director general will get his full year’s salary of $715,000 despite resigning under pressure after 54 days in the post.

The chairman of the broadcaster's governing body described revelations about the BBC’s multiple missteps in reporting a historic child sex abuse scandal in Britain as a “ghastly mess” and said the BBC needed a “radical overhaul.”

Q&A: Crisis at the BBC

"The basis for the BBC's position in this country is the trust that people have in it," Chris Patten, a one-time senior figure in Cameron's Conservative Party and the last British governor of Hong Kong, told the BBC. "If the BBC loses that, it's over."

The widening scandal also had implications on the other side of the Atlantic: Mark Thompson, until recently the man in charge of the organization, takes over as CEO of The New York Times on Monday.

Thompson's successor as Director General, George Entwistle, resigned Saturday -- taking the blame for an editorial blunder in which flagship BBC program “Newsnight” aired false child sex abuse allegations against a former politician.

On Monday, Helen Boaden, the BBC’s director of news and current affairs, and her deputy Steve Mitchell, “stepped aside,” the BBC’s media correspondent Torin Douglas reported.

The BBC's press office said it could not yet confirm the report but the BBC said on its own news website that there would be an announcement later in the day.

The BBC faces police and other investigations into claims that hundreds of people, some as young as 12, were sexually abused over the course of decades by one of their top personalities, the late Jimmy Savile.

It is also facing awkward questions over how the same "Newsnight" program chose not to air a report last year that investigated complaints against Savile. 

Payout
The BBC's governing body confirmed that Entwistle would get a payout of $715,000. It said the settlement took into consideration that Entwistle would continue working on BBC business, including two inquiries in the child abuse scandal.

The U.K. government quickly signaled its displeasure at the payout, with minister Maria Miller saying: "This is a large amount of money, and tough to justify considering the circumstances of Mr. Entwistle's departure."

BBC Director General George Entwistle resigned on Saturday as the BBC spiraled further into scandal over its coverage of two separate sex abuse cases – one, a cover up, and the other, a possible wrongful accusation. NBC's Keir Simmons reports.

John Whittingdale, chairman of the House of Commons committee on culture, media and sport, said he was surprised by the settlement and has sought an explanation.

Sweeping child abuse scandal shakes BBC and other UK institutions

“My immediate reaction is that it cannot be justified but I will want to hear exactly why they think it is appropriate. ... I think almost everybody hearing this news will say 'how can somebody who has had to leave in these circumstances, as a result of a serious failure, nevertheless get a whole year's salary,'” Whittingdale said.

Opposition politician Harriet Harman said the payout “looked like a reward for failure,” according to a BBC report.

The BBC said Entistle's contract stipulated that he receive six months' salary, but that sum was doubled in order to ensure a speedy departure and transition.

Former minister David Mellor has criticized Entwistle as having the "leadership skills of Winnie the Pooh," according to The Telegraph.

Incoming New York Times chief in spotlight
Thompson, the new CEO of the New York Times, said he did not know about the nature of the investigation by "Newsnight" into Savile, and had no involvement in the decision to drop the report, which occurred while he was director general.

BBC Director General George Entwistle resigned Saturday after the network wrongly implicated a 90-year-old politician in a child sex-abuse scandal. NBC's Michelle Kosinski reports.

He later said he had a "chance meeting" with a journalist who mentioned the Newsnight investigation into Savile, but said he had not been told any of the details or the scale of the problem.

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Entwistle's departure and his acceptance of responsibility for editorial decisions as director general, adds pressure to any evaluation of Thompson's role at the BBC and whether he was ultimately accountable for the shelving of the Savile report.

Thompson did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding Entwistle's resignation. Earlier, he declined to be interviewed about his plans for the New York Times, Reuters reported.

'Auntie'
The BBC, celebrating its 90th anniversary, is affectionately known in Britain as "Auntie," and respected around much of the world.

But with 22,000 staff working at eight national TV channels, 50 radio stations and an extensive Internet operation, critics say it is hampered by a complex and overly bureaucratic and hierarchical management structure.

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Funded by an annual license fee levied on all TV viewers, the BBC has also long been resented by its commercial rivals, who argue it has an unfair advantage and distorts the market.

Rupert Murdoch's Sun tabloid gleefully reported Entwistle's departure with the headline "Bye Bye Chump."

Murdoch, whose own News Corp. is at the center of a recent phone-hacking scandal, was watching from afar.

“BBC mess gives Cameron golden opportunity properly to reorganize great public broadcaster,” he wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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