A BBC executive who supported the rehiring of Martin Bashir has been appointed interim head of news after ITN declined to allow Deborah Turness, appointed last week, early release from her notice period.
Jonathan Munro, who was involved in bringing Bashir back to the broadcaster and lavished praise on his “enterprising journalism”, has been appointed as the new director of BBC News and current affairs on an interim basis.
He replaces the outgoing Fran Unsworth in one of the most powerful roles at the BBC, and will be responsible for overseeing the corporation’s new output.
His interim appointment follows complications over the BBC’s hiring of ITN chief executive Deborah Turness on a permanent basis, as she is understood to have a long notice period at the rival broadcaster, with an agreement yet to be reached on when she can join her new employer.
Mr Munro’s appointment comes after concerns were raised about his potential promotion to the position, with a BBC insider previously warning that “two major black marks on the BBC’s editorial copybook in the last five years firmly rest at his door”.
Martin Bashir was rehired by the BBC in 2016
This referred to his involvement with the rehiring of Bashir in 2016 – later disgraced for obtaining a 1995 interview with Princess Diana – and for being the head of newsgathering when a helicopter was deployed to film the home of Sir Cliff Richard during a police raid in 2014.
Mr Munro denied in court that he was responsible for the decision to fly over Sir Cliff’s house, and the BBC has found no evidence of wrongdoing on his part in relation to the rehiring of Bashir.
The executive, who joined the BBC in 2014, said he was “extremely honoured” to take on the new role, which may involve discussions of who will take over Laura Kuenssberg’s role as political editor.
‘Wealth of experience’
Mr Munro will join the BBC’s Executive Committee, and director-general Tim Davie has praised his experience.
In an email to staff, Mr Davie said: “Jonathan has a wealth of experience in news, both at the BBC and in his previous roles.
The email continued: “He has led the world’s largest broadcast newsgathering operation, winning multiple awards for our coverage and is a respected leader across the industry. I know that you will give him every support in this role.”
Mr Munro will take over from January 27, when Ms Unswroth leaves her current role.
The BBC has said in the past that he was not the person ultimately responsible for the re-appointment of Bashir, and a report into the rehiring did not find that he had done anything wrong, nor that he should have acted differently.