BBC criticised for Newsnight axed Jimmy Savile report


Nick Pollard's statement in full

There was "chaos and confusion" at the BBC over a shelved report into sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile, but there had been no cover-up, an inquiry has found.

The report dismissed claims the Newsnight probe was dropped to protect tribute shows to the late TV presenter.

Newsnight's editor and deputy are being replaced after another inquiry criticised a report which led to Lord McAlpine facing false claims of abuse.

The BBC's head of news is returning to her job, but her deputy is to resign.

The Pollard Review was set up by the BBC to see if there were management failings over the investigation, dropped by Newsnight in December 2011.

The report, prepared by former head of Sky News Nick Pollard, said: "The decision to drop the original investigation was flawed and the way it was taken was wrong but I believe it was done in good faith.

"It was not done to protect the Savile tribute programmes or for any improper reason."

It only emerged in October that the six-week investigation had been dropped by BBC TV's flagship current affairs programme, just before ITV aired its own programme on the allegations.

In Wednesday's main developments:

  • Nick Pollard's review found the BBC's management system had "proved completely incapable of dealing" with the issue and "the level of chaos and confusion was even greater than was apparent at the time". "Leadership and organisation seemed to be in short supply" it adds
  • The deputy director of news Stephen Mitchell is criticised for removing the Savile investigation from a list of the BBC's potentially difficult programmes. He has since announced he will leave the BBC next year
  • Nick Vaughan-Barratt, former BBC head of events, wrote to then-director of BBC Vision George Entwistle in May 2011 saying he was "queasy" at the thought of an obituary for Savile. He said he had seen "the real truth" about Savile, but the email was never read
  • The Trust's report on the Newsnight film that led to Lord McAlpine being wrongly named as a paedophile had resulted largely from a failure by members of the team to follow the BBC's own editorial guidelines
  • It led to the resignation of director-general George Entwistle after just 54 days in the job, and three BBC employees have been disciplined
  • The report found that Newsnight failed to complete "basic journalistic checks" and there was confusion about who had the ultimate responsibility for "final editorial sign-off"

Police are now aware of alleged abuse of hundreds of children and young people over five decades by Savile, who died in October 2011, aged 84.

The BBC aired tribute programmes to the late DJ and television presenter over Christmas and New Year.


So no cover-up but it's still a bleak read for the BBC. "Chaos and confusion" is the damning verdict on BBC management.

"When clear leadership was required, it was not provided," states Nick Pollard. So there are very serious question to be asked.

But there are also fascinating details to be culled from the 10,000 emails on the topic.

I was startled reading passages on warnings in 2011 about "the truth" of Jimmy Savile from someone who had worked with him and how he felt "queasy" about the planned tributes programmes, and also a separate email warning about the late presenter's "dark side".

In an email to staff, BBC acting director general Tim Davie said he was "pleased to say that the review found no evidence of any improper pressure" over dropping the programme.

But he accepted that the "report exposed clear failings in some of our systems, the way we work together and make decisions".

Responding to a question from Newsnight's Jeremy Paxman about why no-one had been sacked over the scandal, he said: "Success for me is not necessarily how many people I dismiss. It's about making a fair and proper judgement on the facts in front of me and making sure the BBC is in a position to rebuild trust."

Mr Davie defended the £2m spent on the Pollard Review, saying: "It was right to spend that money because we had an allegation that was very fundamental to trust in the BBC."

He said in future the corporation needed to be "better connected" and information should be shared better.

But he said he was not in favour of adding more layers of management. "It's not about that, it's about clarity, simplicity of structure and actually just clear accountability," he told Newsnight.

'Serious questions'

BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten said the corporation accepted the report in its "entirety".

"I think that the issues of culture and leadership of the management problems that have been identified in that terrific, searingly honest report of Nick Pollard's are ones that have to be addressed," he said.

Acting director general Tim Davie defends the BBC's response to the Pollard Review

BBC home editor Mark Easton said Mr Pollard had been confident the BBC could restore the trust of its audiences, but it would have to be earned.

He said it was also interesting that the BBC Trust had said the problem was cultural, rather than being about structure or compliance.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller said the report raised "serious questions around editorial and management issues at the BBC" and urged the Trust, the corporation's governing body, to "help tackle these".

"I also remind the Trust how vital it is to publish all relevant evidence, as soon as possible, in order to re-build public trust and confidence in the BBC," she said.

The Pollard Review involved the examination of 10,000 emails and detailed interviews with 19 individuals.

Liz Dux, solicitor for 40 alleged victims of abuse by Savile - who are now seeking compensation from his estate - said the shelving of the report meant their suffering had been prolonged by a year.

"Twelve months is an awful long time. It could have led to absolutely disastrous consequences for the victims, because if Savile's estate had been distributed in that twelve months they would have been left with absolutely no access to justice at all," she said.

Newsnight's Liz Mackean and Meirion Jones respond to the report

Mr Davie apologised on Newsnight for the fact that information gathered by the programme was not handed to police for 10 months.

"We absolutely regret that that information wasn't passed on to the police," he said.

Liz McKean, one of the journalists who worked on the Savile story, said the decision to drop it was "a breach of our duty to the women who trusted us to reveal that Jimmy Savile was a paedophile".

She added: "Many found it difficult to share their experiences as vulnerable girls."

Following the report's publication, the BBC announced a series of staff changes:

  • The resignation of deputy director of news Stephen Mitchell has been accepted by the BBC, and he will retire next year
  • Editor of Newsnight Peter Rippon will be replaced, and is in talks with the BBC about a possible new role. In a statement, Mr Rippon disputed that the decision to drop the Savile story had been flawed, but said it was right that Newsnight had a "fresh start"
  • Newsnight deputy editor Liz Gibbons is also being replaced and will move to a new role
  • Head of BBC News Helen Boaden, who had stepped aside during the inquiry, will return to her post on Thursday
  • Radio 5 live controller Adrian Van Klaveren will move to a new role

Another 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.


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  • Comment number 49.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 48.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Maybe if BBC didnt COVER UP and FUND saville his whole career they wouldnt have had to do more cover ups now down with the BBC i say its disgraceful

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    now then now then now then ! LOL sorry it is xmas

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Full review of £3.7 bn pa BBC licence fee needed as C3, C4 and C5 don't costs anything like £3.7bn pa to operate & BBC quango from hell wastes money on eg asian network

    I don't live in Asia & I don't listen to Asian network - why should I have to pay for it?

    BBC needs to concentrate on educating our British youngsters with eg educational foreign language programmes for Europe, science etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    At least we can be grateful that this litany of child rape has finally -FINALLY- allowed us to get to the bottom of corporate governance at the BBC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    The report says everything I guessed a report into the BBC, by the BBC would say.... even to the inclusion of the words 'good faith'.

    Which takes me directly to what I have in this report - faith - None.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    complete and utter cover up - nobody sacked, plus whats the guessing the one person who resigned does so with a full index linked and massive pension

    still it was to be expected, must be nice being able to investigate yourself when you are found to have done something wrong

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    The executive hierarchy that made this mess is still in place. Boards within boards on a spaghetti map designed by consultant whizzkids. Several hundred careerists, all on six figures with no-one sure whose does what, occasionally popping up to front their latest hobby before disappearing into the pension pot. Until the nepotistic merrygoround is scrapped we will still have the risk and the waste.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but if you look up the online editions of the national papers from around the time of Savile's death to the time the scandal broke, it was a veritable chorus of hagiography, even in the Daily Mail, who love a chance to bash the BBC.

    Can it really be that nobody outside the BBC know anything, or did they, too, think it was a story that people didn't want to hear?

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Chris Patten very tetchy and pompous when asked perfectly reasonable question about Mark Thomson's knowledge surrounding Saville issue.

    He considers Pollard report the end of the matter and says he will not comment further or engage in detailed exegesis.

    But do we feel the same way?

    He can't just sail off into the night away from this as he did with Hong Kong ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    There is one easy answer - don't watch BBC channel if you are disgruntled with the output progs. i just wish you would stop putting the Savile face on this page - we all know what he looks like.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    So now can we have public inquiries into every single mistake, misjudgement, and downright lie made by every commercial news and comment broadcaster and every filthy scandalsheet or gossip magazine operating in this country? Or perhaps only on those incidents that result in suffering, financial loss or death to their victims? No? Not even after the Leveson Enquiry findings? What appalling bias.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Is the term "BBC management" an oxymoron?

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    So Boden keeps her job and another couple walk away, presumably with an nice little settlement.
    - What a pre arranged farce!

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    On the News a few minutes ago," we all know what he did". Actually we don't, nothing yet has been proved, it is all 'here say and rumour", the facts are still to face full scrutiny of the legal process.

    The BBC is and remains a dislocated and elitist organisation run for the benefit of the management and their ego's. They have no connect with the licence payer other than taking our money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    @19 JAYHOW

    Because no one believes David Icke anyway?

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    So no cover up, just massive failings.

    But noone will be fired, just a few sacrificial resignations with massive payouts and the licence payer picks up the tab. Oh to live in BBC world where failure is rewarded more than success.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    I just hope that any compensation comes out of the "stars" and staff pay packets rather than using license fee money. The BBC cannot justify any more fee spent on this matter, or they break their own remit for what they should provide for the fee.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    I am surprised, i'm also surprised they brought it out as the Hilsborogh verdict was quashed. a good day for it.


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