He was head of the BBC when Newsnight spiked its Savile investigation. Now Mark Thompson speaks exclusively to Channel 4 News about what he knew – and insists he has nothing to hide.
As controversy rages over BBC executive payouts, Channel 4 News tonight broadcasts an exclusive report in which Mark Thompson is challenged to explain in his own words his role in the Savile affair.
The report also explores the significant unanswered questions still remaining from his time as director general at the BBC.
Days before his appearance in front of the Commons public accounts committee, we assess the management culture at the BBC under Mr Thompson’s leadership, the failed digital strategy which cost the taxpayer over £100m and how these issues are affecting his new role as chief executive of the New York Times.
Tonight’s report also scrutinises the man who presided over the BBC during the abandoned Newsnight investigation into Savile and sets out to establish what exactly he knew about the story.
The BBC’s former boss was cleared by the Pollard inquiry, which concluded that he had never been told about allegations of abuse by Savile.
Channel 4 News put to Mr Thompson the evidence from the former head of news at the BBC which contradicts his account of events and was never included in the final Pollard report.
Speaking in New York on camera for the first time, Mr Thompson admits that he did have a conversation with Helen Boaden about the investigation into Jimmy Savile.
He tells reporter Miles Goslett: “Let’s be clear, there was a very brief conversation between Helen Boaden and myself… we had slightly different recollections about this conversation.
“Nick Pollard knows he considered this fact and decided at the end of his investigation that he had no reason to doubt my version of events… that is what happened.”
Mr Thompson continues: “The key thing is this was a conversation about an investigation that she thought had failed.”
Tonight’s report on Channel 4 at 7.00 comes a day after Mr Thompson launched a scathing attack on BBC Trust Chairman Lord Patten, accusing him of “fundamentally misleading” parliament about excessive pay-offs to senior executives.