19 Dec 2012

BBC Newsnight inquiry finds Savile decision was ‘flawed’

An inquiry into BBC Newsnight’s decision to drop a report about alleged sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile finds that the judgement was flawed and management were incapable of dealing with the issue.

The inquiry, carried out by Sky’s former head of news, Nick Pollard, said shelving the report had plunged the BBC into “chaos and confusion”.

The report paints a picture of an organisation with rivalries and faction fighting and noted the BBC’s management system “proved completely incapable of dealing” with the issues raised by the axing of the story.

It found that the level of “chaos and confusion was even greater than was apparent at the time” while the decision to drop the investigation was said to be “flawed” but done “in good faith”.

The decision to axe the investigation was “not done to protect the Savile tribute programmes or for any improper reason,” the report concludes.

Another review by the BBC Trust, also released today, concluded that airing a Newsnight report that led to Lord McAlpine being wrongly named as a paedophile was a failure by members of the team to follow the BBC’s own editorial guidelines.

The Pollard review concluded that the BBC does not need to be taken apart “brick by brick” but warns that the director-general’s role as editor-in-chief must now be examined.

In response to the report the BBC said Newsnight will get a new editor and deputy editor and incoming director-general, Tony Hall, will be asked to reform its “management culture”.

Download the full Pollard Review here

Witnesses including top BBC executives and Newsnight journalists gave evidence, some under questioning from a QC, into why the planned news report on Savile did not go ahead. Claims the show was axed because it clashed with planned tributes to the late DJ have been repeatedly denied by the BBC.

The report also includes part of an email sent to George Entwistle two years before he became director-general warning him that an obituary for Savile had not been made because of “the darker side” to his life, though Mr Entwistle told the inquiry he had not read it.

The review claimed the email, and others like it, indicates “there was knowledge, not just rumour … about the unsavoury side of Savile’s character” in BBC TV after his death.

The publication of the review was accompanied by a separate report by Ken MacQuarrie into how Newsnight reported an incorrect story implicating Lord McAlpine in child abuse allegations.

The Savile inquiries

Operation Yewtree is the Met police investigation into alleged sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile and others. The total number of alleged victims was 589, of whom 450 alleged abuse by Savile; the report of the investigations will be published in 2013.

The director of public prosecutions is reviewing the Crown Prosecution Service's decision not to prosecute Savile in 2009, in relation to four claims against him.

Theresa May ordered Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary to carry out an assessment of all the investigations relating to Savile undertaken by police across the country – to examine if allegations were investigated properly.

An inquiry in Jersey was launched in November into allegations that Jimmy Savile abused children at Haut de la Garenne in Jersey.

The BBC launched three inquiries after the Jimmy Savile scandal; former high court judge Dame Janet Smith is reviewing the culture and practices of the BBC during the time Savile worked there.

Nick Pollard, a former Sky News executive, investigated why the Newsnight investigation into Savile's actvities was dropped before transmission.

A third investigation led by Dinah Rose QC was launched into the handling of past sexual harassment claims at the BBC.

A separate investigation into Newsnight's false report on Lord McAlpine was investigated by BBC Scotland director, Ken MacQuarrie, who found that "basic journalistic checks were not completed".

A Department of Health investigation has been launched into its own conduct in allowing Savile to lead a taskforce overseeing the Broadmoor high security psychiatric hospital.

Mr Entwistle was head of BBC television at the time the investigation was dropped and took the top job as director-general in September only to resign after just over 50 days in charge. Newsnight editor Peter Rippon stepped aside pending the findings of the independent review.

The review led by Dame Janet Smith looking at the culture and practices of the BBC during the years in which Savile worked there is expected next year.

This morning detectives investigating the Savile abuse scandal arrested a man in his 70s from London on suspicion of sexual offences.

He was arrested as part of Operation Yewtree and falls under the strand termed “Savile and others”, Scotland Yard confirmed.