BBC CEO Tim Davey said the broadcaster interviewed last month with Jeffrey Epstein’s former lawyer, Alan Dershowitz, because of a personal error rather than a cut in his news team.
Following the conviction of Ghislaine Maxwell, a co-conspirator of the late American financier, the corporation faced criticism for airing an interview with a high-profile US attorney representing pedophile Epstein.
The BBC later stated that the interview did not meet its editorial standards and that Mr Dershowitz was not a “suitable person” to be interviewed as an impartial analyst.
Appearing before the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee, Mr Dewey was asked whether the “centralisation” in the BBC risked “aggravating” his editorial mistakes.
Referring to the interview with Mr Dershowitz, he said: “We looked into what happened but there was no investigation.
“We immediately acknowledged that this was a violation of our editorial guidelines and directly stated that this was a mistake.
“Then you understand why the mistake happened. You can argue a little bit in terms of seniority and amount of cover during Christmas, during COVID.
“I don’t think it’s about centralization, but I still think that in a future model you’ll be able to book a guest into the news even if it’s in the news.
“Not everything is centralised. It’s just standard business of the day in some ways. Maybe you’ll get a little more attention to what the guests are bringing forward in monitoring the story.
“But it was only about the amount of due diligence done by the planner and the knowledge level of the person putting the person on the air.”
Mr. Dershowitz has also been charged with sex crimes by Virginia Giuffre, who claims she was abused by Epstein, who died in prison in 2019; British socialite Maxwell; and Prince Andrew, Duke of York.
Mr Dershowitz, 83, and Duke, 61, have vehemently denied any wrongdoing and have not been charged with any offence.
Interviews on BBC News Channel introduced him as a “constitutional lawyer” after news broke that Maxwell had been convicted of juvenile trafficking, but made no reference to his relationship with those involved in the case.
She used the airtime to discredit Ms Giuffre’s claims against herself and the Duke.
During the session, Mr. Dewey also defended the corporation’s incoming news chief on the issue of fairness.
ITN Chief Executive Deborah Turnes is joining the BBC as its new Chief Executive of News and Current Affairs after holding senior positions with NBC News and ITV News.
He said: “I will delicately avoid any evaluation of Channel 4 News as I think it is to evaluate for others.
“By the way, the BBC has more stringent editorial guidelines than the Ofcom code and I think my job is to really focus on that.
“The second point I would make is that if I had any doubts that a Director of News candidate may not innocently and proactively deploy a deep understanding of our fairness brief, I would not hire them. Stocked, and I think Deborah Ternes should be excellent at delivering on this brief.”
In October, the BBC unveiled plans for its “biggest and most important push” in response to a review of its governance and culture, led by Sir Nicholas Serota, president of the Arts Council of England.
The broadcaster published a 10-point plan focused on objectivity, editorial standards and whistleblowing to ensure that its content is fair, accurate and unbiased.