Panorama airs programme on Newsnight's Savile investigation
- 23 October 2012
- From the section UK
The BBC's Panorama has aired its programme into why Newsnight dropped an investigation into sexual abuse claims against Jimmy Savile.
The programme was broadcast the day before BBC director general George Entwistle appears before MPs.
Newsnight interviewed Karin Ward who said she saw singer Gary Glitter having sex with a schoolgirl in Savile's room. Glitter denies the latest allegations.
Police have described Savile as a predatory sex offender.
Ms Ward, a former pupil at Duncroft approved school for girls in Surrey, said she recalled seeing Glitter, now a convicted paedophile, having sexual intercourse with a girl from the school in Savile's dressing room.
She said the room was "packed" with people and Savile, who was present when the abuse was taking place, "laughed about it".
Ms Ward was interviewed for Newsnight on 14 November last year, at a time when she was ill with cancer. The interview was shown for the first time on Panorama.
She told Panorama she had been angered when her interview was not aired by Newsnight: "It was hurtful, and it was difficult because I had been pushed so hard to do it when I didn't want to...
"In the end I said OK, and for all that stress, that's what made me angry, the fact that I'd gone through all that stress when I really needed to concentrate on getting well, and then they never used it - because somebody higher up didn't believe me".
The programme reported allegations that the Top of the Pops programme was a centre of abuse - and that Savile was not the only one involved.
Liz Dux, a lawyer for some of the victims, told Panorama: "The stories that I'm hearing from some of the victims are that they did report the abuse and that no action was taken."
She added: "There are some quite serious allegations that a paedophile ring was operating."
The programme heard from a range of former BBC staff, including:
- Former Radio 1 DJ Paul Gambaccini, who said: "This horror, for that is what it was, took place while all of society was watching. But because it was off the scale of everybody's belief system they didn't really come to terms with it."
- Former BBC reporter Martin Young said he once found Savile in a camper van lying on a bed with a teenage girl, both of them clothed. Asked if he thought about reporting it, he replied: "No, never even crossed my mind. And I'll take my share of the blame for that."
- Another ex-BBC reporter, Bob Langley, said on two occasions he spotted young girls coming out of Savile's caravan. He said: "Supposing I had gone to the police or to the BBC, what would have happened? The answer is nothing would have happened. He would have said 'it was a joke, can't you take a joke?'. And that would have been it."
- In 1973, the then Radio 1 controller Douglas Muggeridge asked his press officer, Rodney Collins, to find out if the rumours about Savile were true. Mr Collins said he found no evidence of any newspaper or police investigations
- Around the same time Radio 1 department head Derek Chinnery was asked by Mr Muggeridge to confront Savile with the allegations. He said: "On reflection it was very naive of Muggeridge and me to do that because the man was obviously going to deny it, even though we had no concrete evidence to prove that anything was up"
- Jim'll Fix It producer Roger Ordish said he had never been told about the BBC radio inquiry
In 2011 Newsnight was investigating claims of abuse, learned of a dropped Surrey Police inquiry into Savile in 2007 and planned an investigation for broadcast. However editor Peter Rippon then "applied the brakes", said Panorama.
Newsnight reporter Liz MacKean said: "It was an abrupt change of tone, from one day 'excellent, let's prepare to get this thing on air' to 'hold on'."
Panorama said Mr Rippon's reason was that some of the women interviewed by Newsnight claimed the Crown Prosecution Service had not pressed charges because Savile was too old and frail.
Mr Rippon wanted this confirmed - he said in an email to Newsnight producer Meirion Jones: "Our sources so far are just the women and a second-hand briefing."
The Panorama programme claimed Mr Rippon had not watched the interview with Ms Ward.
Earlier this month, in a blog, Mr Rippon explained the editorial reasons behind his decision to axe the report. He said it was "totally untrue" he had been ordered to do it by bosses as part of a BBC cover-up.
On Monday the BBC issued a correction to this blog, calling it "inaccurate or incomplete in some respects".
It said Mr Rippon was stepping aside for the duration of a BBC inquiry into whether there was any failings in the BBC's management of the investigation.
Panorama claimed there was no evidence Mr Rippon was told to drop the programme - but questions remained why this happened.
Commons culture committee chairman John Whittingdale said the director general had serious questions to answer over the dropped investigation.
In response to the Panorama programme, a BBC spokesman said: "The Pollard Review [into the Newsnight programme] is the right forum to resolve detailed issues relating to BBC programming and the Newsnight investigation. Panorama has every right to pursue its programme but nothing should be done to prejudge the Pollard inquiry.
"However, on the basis of information provided by the Newsnight editor and production team, BBC management has reached the view that there are inaccuracies in the Peter Rippon blog of 2 October and has issued a corrective statement.
"We should also make it clear we now accept that the Newsnight investigation did not start out as an investigation into the Surrey police's handling of the case against Mr Savile."
Thompson 'did not know'
Meanwhile, a spokesman for former BBC director general Mark Thompson, commenting on questions put to him by the Times, said Mr Thompson was asked by a journalist at a party late last year about a Newsnight investigation into Savile - which he had until then been unaware of, he said.
He later mentioned the conversation "to senior colleagues in BBC News and asked if there was a problem with the investigation" but was told it had been dropped by Newsnight for journalistic reasons.
"The first time he became aware of the allegations that Jimmy Savile had committed serious crimes and that some of these crimes had taken place in the course of his employment at the BBC was when he heard the pre-publicity for the ITV investigation. This was after he had stepped down as director-general."
The Metropolitan Police has launched a criminal inquiry into the allegations against the former BBC presenter and DJ who died in October 2011 aged 84.
They believe he may have sexually abused many people, including young girls, over a 40-year period, sometimes on BBC premises.