- Director general George Entwistle tells MPs that at present there is insufficient evidence to say whether or not abuse at BBC was 'endemic'
- He revealed the ditched Newsnight probe into the Savile sex scandal should have continued
- Lawyer Liz Dux told Panorama of claims a paedophile ring had been operating at the BBC and said 'Savile targeted boys as well as girls'
- Panorama omits Newsnight editor Peter Rippon's email blaming a 'long political chain' for canning probe - Entwistle doesn't know what this means
- He then slaps down Mr Rippon who said the only evidence Newsnight had was 'just the women'
- Entwistle says there was a 'breakdown of communication' between Rippon and Newsnight reporters
- MPs tell Entwistle he must 'get a grip' on the scandal and 'act decisively' for the sake of the BBC
By Emily Allen
PUBLISHED: 19:11 EST, 22 October 2012 | UPDATED: 07:28 EST, 23 October 2012
The head of the BBC has spoken of his 'horror' over the deluge of abuse claims against Jimmy Savile as it emerged the Corporation is investigating up to 10 'serious allegations' against employees.
Director-General George Entwistle was being grilled today by MPs at a Commons Select Committee over how the BBC has handled sex abuse allegations against the late TV presenter.
The BBC boss said there was insufficient evidence yet to say whether or not abuse was endemic within the Corporation, but revealed it was investigating up to 10 'serious allegations' involving past and present employees.
Mr Entwistle faced a barrage of criticism from MPs for his 'extraordinary lack of curiosity' over Newsnight's discovery that Savile was a suspected paedophile. The programme was canned last year and TV tributes to the late DJ were broadcast instead.
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Grilling: Director-General George Entwistle has taken his seat in front of the Commons Select Committee where he is being grilled over the Corporation's handling of sex abuse allegations
Mr Entwistle also admitted today that a 'broad cultural problem' within the BBC during the 60s and 70s had allowed Savile to get away with decades of abusing children.
However, he insisted that he didn't think the Corporation had handled the scandal badly, and said the BBC was taking 'every step we can' to help police investigate claims he was part of a paedophile ring.
Mr Entwistle also told the committee
that Newsnight's controversial probe into Savile's alleged behaviour
should never have been ditched by TV bosses last year.
Last night Panorama broadcast an hour-long show attempting to get to the bottom of why it was shelved.
He said: 'I came away from Panorama firmly of the view that that
investigation, even if, in the judgment of the editor, it wasn't ready
for transmission at the point he was looking at it, should have been
allowed to continue.'
Entwistle said there had been a 'breakdown of communication' between
Newsnight reporters and the editor, Peter Rippon, and he did not feel 'confident' he
could get an explanation over what happened from within the BBC.
added: 'What became clear to us after the blog was published was that
what had happened on Newsnight, there was a significant, it seemed,
difference of opinion between the people working on the investigation
and the editor, Mr Rippon, who commissioned the investigation.
'That difference of opinion was made clear to me relatively soon after the blog was published the following week.
Committee: BBC Director-General George Entwistle (front left) and Head of BBC Editorial Policy David Jordan (front right) give evidence. Mr Entwistle said the allegations surrounding Savile were of 'great regret'
I would normally absolutely expect to be able to get from the editor of
a programme a complete and full picture of what had been going on in
that programme, I thought I needed to get to the bottom of why there
seemed to be a difference of opinion and there definitely seems to me to
have been a difference of opinion.
'There definitely seems to me to have been a breakdown in communication on Newsnight in that regard.'
Mr Entwistle told the committee that he had not personally spoken to any of those involved in preparing the Newsnight film.
He said he felt it was better to operate through the BBC 'chain of command', so that he could remain an impartial judge of any subsequent disciplinary case, and had therefore left it to head of news Helen Boaden and deputy director of news Stephen Mitchell to deal directly with the programme.
Mr Entwistle said Ms Boaden had spoken to the Newsnight team only briefly during the investigation.
'I understand that Helen's only conversation with Peter (Rippon) in respect of the Newsnight investigation was to remind him that, just because Jimmy Savile was dead, it didn't mean that there could be any skimping in journalistic standards, and that the usual BBC standards would apply,' said Mr Entwistle.
Mr Entwistle said there was insufficient evidence to say whether abuse was endemic within the Corporation
Asked whether Mr Rippon might have
interpreted that as pressure from above to drop the investigation, Mr
Entwistle replied: 'I don't regard it as an inappropriate point in any
sense to make to an editor. BBC journalistic standards are exactly what
Helen is there to support.'
Committee member Ben Bradshaw told Mr Entwistle that he appeared to have been 'seriously let down by BBC managers'.
But Mr Entwistle replied: 'I don't think it's right to make that judgment now. The reviews are there to shed light on every aspect of this. Only once the reviews have heard evidence from all the relevant people and made a study of all the documentation will we know exactly what happened.'
Newsnight editor Peter Rippon stood down as the furore over the ditched Savile investigation continued to gather pace yesterday
Later on in the hearing, Mr Entwistle gave the committee his account of a brief conversation with Ms Boaden at which she alerted him to the potential impact of the Newsnight show on the scheduled Boxing Day programme.
But he insisted that there was nothing in it that should have given him any reason, as the then head of television, to seek more information.
'I was grateful to her for giving me the heads-up,' he said - telling the MPs that it was 'relatively rare' for such a conversation to take place.
'But the key message I took away from the conversation was that it wasn't yet clear to Helen whether it was going to stand up or not.
'I left the conversation with an expectation that I would be updated as to whether or not the whole thing was going to happen.
'If someone had said to me 'We are happy with this, this is ready to broadcast', then at that stage I would have expected to engage fully with the consequences.'
He thought Ms Boaden was being no more than a 'considerate colleague' and did not feel he needed to ask for any further information at that stage, he said.
'I was not relaxed about it but I was critically waiting for the vital piece of information.'
That was partly down to his determination to 'observe the separate organisation of news and television' and not be seen to be exerting unreasonable editorial pressure, he said.
He complained that he had been accused both of intervening to block the Newsnight programme to protect the tribute shows and of not showing enough interest in the Newsnight investigation.
'I was trying to find the right place on that line.'
He told the MPs: 'I don't believe I did fail, but I believe the system as a whole seems not to have got this right.'
Pressed by Mr Whittingdale as to what he thought at the time the nature of the allegations against Mr Savile might be, he said: 'I don't remember reflecting on it. This was a busy lunch.
'It wasn't that I didn't want to know. What was in my mind was this determination not to show an undue interest.'
Savile caught on camera surrounded by woman at the height of his fame. The footage was aired on Panorama
Savile on one of his many television programmes lifting up the skirt of a smiling member of the audience
Mr Entwistle said he had found no evidence of managerial pressure on Newsnight to drop its investigation.
He told the committee: 'I have been
able to find no evidence whatsoever in the conversations I have had and
in the documents we have now pulled together that any kind of managerial
pressure to drop the investigation was applied.
'The decision was made by Peter
Rippon on his own account. What was going on in his mind at the time is
something we have got to rely on the Pollard Review to interrogate as
best it can.'
He added: 'The consequences of an investigation going out on television or radio are plain to everyone, of course... and I don't believe for a second the BBC would have had any difficulties whatever in re-forming the Christmas schedule in the light of a Newsnight investigation if it had gone ahead.
Entwistle leaves the BBC's Millbank Studios this morning and stood by the BBC's handling of the saga today
'We would have been absolutely at pains to do so and would have regarded it as the right thing to do.
'I do think, and I've acknowledged, that we have to address this question of what comes of journalism which doesn't necessarily result in immediate output and yet which contains important information for the Corporation to absorb, either corporately or in terms of a relationship with the police. It's something I need to look at.'
Conservative MP Therese Coffey branded 'chilling' an email sent by Mr Rippon last November that said about the Newsnight probe 'our sources so far are just the women' and questioned whether the culture had really changed at the BBC.
'That phrase, on the face of it, isn't in the least defensible, of course,' he said. 'I do believe the culture has changed since the Seventies and Eighties but I'm not convinced it has changed as much as it should have.'
Dozens of journalists, MPs and lawyers packed into Portcullis House for the hearing, passing through two security checks - stepped up after News Corporation chief Rupert Murdoch was attacked by a protester with a foam pie last year.
Revelations: In the expose Liz Dux, a lawyer representing some of Savile's alleged victims said that from what she had learned from the victims: 'there was a paedophile ring operating at the BBC'
Wearing a blue shirt and red tie, Mr Entwistle spoke of his regret over the scandal. He said: 'There's no question that what Jimmy Savile did and the way the BBC behaved for years allowed him to do what he did and it raises questions of trust. I can't look back on it with anything other than horror. It is a matter of great regret to me.'
MPs repeatedly pressed him on how many sexual harassment claims were being investigated, prompting Tory MP Philip Davies to tell him to 'get a grip' on the organisation.
Mr Entwistle said it was important to differentiate between complaints of sexual harassment and those of criminal behaviour, such as underage sex, and said he was bringing in Dinah Rose QC to look at how the BBC handles sexual harassment cases.
Mr Entwistle was also asked why vulnerable young girls were allowed to be 'bussed in' to appear on Savile's shows, and then allowed backstage.
WORK ON JIMMY SAVILE INQUIRY 'TO BEGIN NEXT WEEK'
Dame Janet Smith said she will begin work on her inquiry into Jimmy Savile's activities at the BBC as early as next week.
The former Court of Appeal judge, who led the Shipman Inquiry, has been appointed to head one of the independent inquiries commissioned by the corporation as a result of the late presenter's protracted sexual abuse.
She will look into the 'culture and practices' of the BBC during the years Savile was working for the corporation, during which he is thought to have abused dozens of people.
Dame Janet said the team who will work on the inquiry is being assembled.
Dame Janet said she could not say how long the investigation was expected to last because information continues to come to light.
'It seems to me that the material is growing almost by the day and I can't estimate how long it's going to take.'
She agreed she had not expected to spend her retirement in such a role.
'Nor indeed did my husband expect me to be spending my retirement in this way,' she added.
Her inquiry was ordered earlier this month and announced by BBC director-general George Entwistle.
Another will be conducted by former Sky News chief Nick Pollard, who will examine the circumstances around a Newsnight investigation into Savile's abuse being shelved.
He insisted the Corporation was looking into which managers were in charge at the time the programmes were made, adding: 'The Dame Janet Smith review is set up to answer those questions.'
The former Court of Appeal judge, who led the Shipman Inquiry, has been appointed by the Corporation to head the independent inquiry.
Although Mr Entwistle stood by the BBC's handling of the Savile saga, and said he had personally contacted police when the torrent of allegations began to pour in at the beginning of the month, he conceded it could have reacted quicker.
He said: 'I would accept that there have been times when we have taken longer to do things than in a perfect world I would have liked.
'But I think if you looked at what we have achieved since the scale of the crisis became clear, I think you see we have done much of what we should have done and done it in the right order and with proper respect paid to the right authorities.'
Yesterday, Mr Rippon stood down as the furore over the ditched Savile investigation continued to gather pace.
The BBC then proceeded to correct 'inaccuracies' in Mr Rippon's October 2 blog explaining his reasons for shelving the probe, which Mr Entwistle today described as a 'matter of regret and embarrassment.'
Last night's Panorama revealed Savile was suspected of being a paedophile four decades ago.
A lawyer for some of Savile's alleged victims also suggested that 'there was a paedophile ring operating at the corporation'.
In the hour-long expose, Liz Dux said the victims also suggested that 'Savile targeted boys as well as girls'.
Meanwhile, it emerged BBC lawyers apparently blocked a specific batch of emails about the controversial decision to axe the Newsnight investigation from appearing on last night's show.
Damning: Newsnight reporter Liz MacKean described Peter Rippon went in a matter of days from describing the report as 'excellent' to feeling under intense pressure to drop it
The programme, which aired at 10.30pm, revealed there was an informal meeting about 40 years ago between Savile and BBC Radio 1 producers about the allegations.
Savile 'flatly denied' having sex with underage girls, contributors to the programme said.
However, one former reporter for the
BBC programme Nationwide, Bob Langley, said Savile had hinted that he
had sex with teenage girls as young as 13.
Mr Langley said he thought Savile was joking.
THE SEVEN QUESTIONS GEORGE ENTWISTLE MUST ANSWER
When BBC director-general George Entwistle appears before the Culture, Media and Sport select committee today there are key questions that must be asked if the truth is to emerge about why the Newsnight investigation into Jimmy Savile was dropped.
- Why was Newsnight's investigation into Jimmy Savile not broadcast?
- Why did Mr Entwistle tell staff it was an investigation into Surrey Police's inquiry into Savile, rather than an investigation into allegations that Savile was a paedophile?
- Why did Mr Entwistle persist with broadcasting two Christmas programmes in tribute to Savile?
- Why were allegations of abuse by Savile that were uncovered by Newsnight journalists not then passed on to police?
- If the Newsnight programme was pulled because there was insufficient evidence for the Crown Prosecution Service to bring any charges, why were reporters not given more time to make their investigations?
- Did the BBC act on any of the information uncovered by the Newsnight reporters and conduct any internal inquiries into the allegations about Savile? If not, why not?
Music presenter Paul Gambaccini also revealed he was aware of Savile’s abuse but defended not reporting him: 'So what, I a junior DJ am supposed to get up there and say my senior is a perv? They are going to laugh at me. It never occurred to me.'
When news broke in February that the BBC had pulled the Newsnight investigation, the corporation insisted that the decision had been made for 'editorial reasons' by editor Peter Rippon without any influence from above.
The BBC has also claimed that Newsnight dropped its investigation because no evidence of 'institutional failure' was found at Surrey Police.
But last night's programme suggested the investigation was dropped because it would have clashed with tribute to Savile broadcast last December.
Mr Rippon, who stood down earlier this week because of the allegations of a cover up, did not speak to the Panorama investigators.
He had appeared to play down the evidence of the victims as coming from 'just the women'.
In an email to staff, he said: ‘Having pondered this overnight I think the key is whether we can establish the CPS did drop the case for the reasons the women say. That makes it a better story – our sources so far are just the women and a second–hand briefing.’
of the women he is referring to is Karin Ward, one of Savile’s victims
of child abuse, who gave an interview to Newsnight 11 months ago while
she was suffering from cancer.
She told Panorama she was angry it was never broadcast.
Instead, she had re-lived her abuse ‘when I really needed to concentrate on getting well and then they never ran it because somebody higher up didn’t believe me’.
Damaging: The programme revealed the BBC first heard rumours about Savile four decades ago
Newsnight reporter Liz MacKean described how Mr Rippon went in a matter of days from describing the report as ‘excellent’ to feeling under intense pressure to drop it.
CHARITIES CLOSE OVER JIMMY SAVILE SCANDAL
Two charities set up in the name of Jimmy Savile are to close in the wake of the growing sex abuse scandal surrounding the late presenter.
The trustees of the Jimmy Savile Charitable Trust and the Jimmy Savile Stoke Mandeville Hospital Trust, which operates independently of the hospital, said they had given 'much consideration' to a possible change of name but they felt that the charities would always be linked to him in the public's mind.
A statement said: 'The trustees cannot see a future for either charity. The trustees have, with great sadness, therefore decided to take steps to bring both charities to an end.'
The trustees would be talking to the charitable beneficiaries that they have committed to support as well as to the Charity Commission, to ensure that this was done in the most 'sensitive and appropriate' way, they added.
'The trustees have already chosen how to distribute the funds in each charity and have decided not to publicly announce who the recipients will be,' the statement continued.
According to The Daily Telegraph three emails sent by Ms MacKean expressing concerns about management interference to an unnamed friend were blocked by Panorama's lawyers from appearing in last night's programme.
The newspaper claimed that publication was prevented because of the potential for legal action.
A Panorama spokesman said: 'It is ridiculous to suggest in the circumstances that Panorama is not prepared to take BBC management to task.'
Meanwhile Meirion Jones, the Newsnight producer and one of the key journalists in its Savile investigation, said he warned Mr Rippon of 'substantial damage to the BBC’s reputation' if he pulled the film.
Mr Jones told last night's Panorama said that when the team found out their programme would clash with Christmas scheduling 'there was a deep intake of breath. We assumed if our programme went ahead they would have to pull the tributes.'
And on 5 October 2012, Mr Entwistle wrote to staff about the controversy, stating: 'The BBC Newsnight programme investigated Surrey Police's inquiry into Jimmy Savile towards the end of 2011.'
But in Panorama's interview with Mr Jones, he said he had contacted Mr Entwistle following his staff letter, to say the investigation had actually been into whether or not Savile was a paedophile.
The programme showed an extract from an email of protest that he had sent about the central cause of the investigation.
Traumatic: Karin Ward, one of Savile's victims of child abuse, gave an interview to Newsnight 11 months ago while she was suffering from cancer
Testimony: Karin Ward speaking about being assaulted after appearing on 'Clunk Click'
Correction: The email from journalist Meirion Jones, who said he had contacted Mr Entwistle following his staff letter, to say the investigation had actually been into whether or not Savile was a paedophile
Ms MacKean accused the Corporation of failing Savile’s victims – including Karin Ward who had spoken for the first time of how she had been abused by the DJ and had seen Gary Glitter having sex with another under-age girl on BBC premises.
Ms Mackean spoke to several former pupils of a children's home in Surrey who made allegations about Savile - but the interviews were never aired.
'I felt we had a responsibility towards them. We had got them to talk to us and above all we did believe them.
'I felt very badly about that, I felt we had let them down,' she said.
Soon after Savile's death Merion Jones pitched the idea of the investigation into the abuse claims.
He found former pupil Karin Ward's account on the internet of abuse at Duncroft approved school for girls in Middlesex, referring to a man called J.S.
The team manged to secure an
interview with her and she told them Jimmy Savile asked her for oral
sex in exchange for being able to go to television centre.
'I was 14, of course I wanted to go to television centre,' she explained.
After being in the audience for Savile's show Clunk Click she was invited with other young people to the dressing room.
Rebuked: The email George Entwistle sent to staff about the reason for the Newsnight investigation
Halt: An email from Peter Rippon to Meirion Jones saying he will 'pull editing for now'
Questioning: Peter Rippon's email questioning the viability of the Newsnight story
Her account given to Newsnight contained serious allegations about other celebrities on BBC premises and she mentioned Gary Glitter was 'particularity horrible.'
'I can remember seeing him having sex with one of the girls from Duncroft in Jimmy Savile's dressing room.
She said Savile had 'laughed about it. Thought it was funny.'
'I am so full of self-disgust I can believe I did such things. I just carried on, lulled into a false sense of that's how these things have to be - that's what we were for.
Warning: Meirion Jones, the Newsnight producer said he warned Peter Rippon of 'substantial damage to the BBC's reputation' if he pulled the film
The programme also revealed when a cub scout group from East London went to Jim'll Fix It, they were all given medals.
PANORAMA 'LEFT OPEN MORE QUESTIONS THAN IT ANSWERED'
Daily Telegraph's Neil Midgley: 'So Panorama was a programme that left open more questions than it answered.
'We still weren’t given a convincing explanation as to why Rippon decided to pull the Newsnight investigation at all – and, in particular, to pull it completely, instead of allowing it to gather more evidence.'
Guardian's Mark Damazer: 'The noble reason for this acute and sometimes embarrassing navel- gazing is the need to protect the BBC's impartiality and integrity'.
Piers Morgan @piersmorgan: 'This #Panorama expose of Savile is absolutely horrifying. Which makes it all the more scandalous that Newsnight covered it up.'
Bianca Jagger @BiancaJagger: 'I am watching #Panorama about #JimmySavile, I am speechless, shocked and revolted by the cover-up. We must expose other celebrities...
Phillip Schofield @Schofe: 'What a shame Peter Rippon chose not to talk to Panorama. #BBC #Panorama
Labour MP Tom Watson @tom_watson: 'Can't believe #Panorama. If I was the BBC's impressive Liz MacKean or Meirion Jones I would be furious. What do you think?'
But according to the the man who was interviewed anonymously, Savile paid particular attention to nine-year-old Kevin.
'I was led into one of the rooms. Like
a small dressing room, very dinky. We went in and he closed the door
and he asked me did I want my badge and I said yeah,' said one of his
'He put his hand on my knee and started touching me and at the same time he forced my hand on top of his trousers and made me rub him. I was absolutely petrified.'
Veteran BBC journalist John Simpson told Panorama: ‘This is the worst crisis that I can remember in my nearly 50 years at the BBC.
don’t think the BBC has handled it terribly well. It’s better to just
come out right at the start and say we’re going to open everything up
and then we’re going to show everybody everything.'
George, told of meeting Savile when he was still a young girl,
Alison, and a patient at Broadmoor – and how Savile 'put his hand
between my legs, quickly, not really looking at me.'
A Panorama statement said: 'Peter
Rippon has always maintained the story was pulled for 'editorial
reasons' and not because of a potentially embarrassing clash with
planned BBC tributes to Savile over Christmas.
'Panorama has found no evidence to contradict that view.'
Viewers took to Twitter to express incredulity that BBC Two’s Newsnight was discussing the Panorama expose at the same time as on BBC One, Panorama was investigating Newsnight’s editorial decisions.
Veteran BBC journalist John Simpson: 'This is the worst crisis that I can remember in my nearly 50 years at the BBC'
Paxman appeared for what is believed to be the first time without a tie - but a BBC spokesman was unable to comment on whether there was any significance to this.
In 2007 Paxman wrote a blog asking whether ‘Is it time for Newsnight men to stop wearing ties?’.
He continued the tie ‘has always been an utterly useless part of the male wardrobe. But now it seems to me the only people who wear the things daily are male politicians, male reporters who interview them and dodgy estate agents.’
The tieless look is believed to be a new ‘dressed down’ style as Newsnight has moved to a new studio.
On Newsnight, Stuart Purvis, former chief executive of ITN, said: 'When you have a corporate statement that’s been up there for at least a couple of weeks and then suddenly you pull it and say, actually that wasn’t right.
'It’s a statement that was initiated by the editor of Newsnight, was supported by the head of editorial policy, and supported by the director general and supported by the chairman of the BBC trust, it’s an embarrassing thing.’
VIDEO: To watch the full Panorama program click here...
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