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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  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Lord Chris Patten, former Tory party Chair deselected by the people, immediately throned Governor of Hong Kong by Major, then throned to Chancellor of Oxford University and Chair of the BBC.
    He and the trustees (all throned) are all titled and ennobled members of the British Establishment.

    Jimmy Saville was a titled member of the British Establishment.

    -They all look after their own.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    So, there was no cover up at the BBC. That might explain why the UKIP and Tory types are silent today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    So the inquiry found no evidence of a cover-up - could that be because the clover-up was so good?

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    Good to see all those who failed in their roles, continue riding along on the BBC Gravy train, albeit some in different roles...nothing will change until the compulsory licence fee is scrapped. This is beyond a joke

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    7 Minutes ago

    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."

    I dont watch it, so why do I have to pay for it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Seriously, conspiracies involving thousands of people do not happen. The secret always gets out, whether through indiscretion or indignation.

    Do we really believe that the entire BBC (plus everyone at Savile's other haunts):

    a) Knew what was happening
    b) Perceived it as wrong, and
    c) Did/said nothing?

    So unlikely. Either (a) or (b) must have not been true at the time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Sorry , the BBC IS above the law!
    If a manager of a business knows that they have a pervert operating under their business banner they have a duty of care, a responsibility to deal with it, ie shop the pervert!BBC Managers did no such thing apart from "feeling queesy"!Senior heads roll,no pay offs, just a boot up the behind! Will we get that?
    It is all licence money!

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    BBC acting director general Tim Davie said he was "pleased to say that the review found no evidence..."

    I bet that's what Al Capone used to say.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Just saw Patten's news conference. Breathtaking in his arrogance and dismissal of legitimate questions from journalists. The team of time servers beside him were looking very shifty indeed. The culture of cosy deals, self-supporting networks, no blame accepted - culture........utterly exposed. is only likely to provide ammunition for those who would seek to dismember the BBC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    If only the BBC had covered up Jimmy’s gentials, perhaps with concrete or broken glass, instead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    the sexual morality debate rages on...a pity we cant devorce politics from it

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    It beggars description that my Licence fee will still go to pay for the salaries of these incompetent people.

    The Old Boy's network is alive and well. Keeping Patten and his crooks in their rose tinted glasses at our expense.

    Fire all the incompetents found here from Patten down to the people who are "applying for new jobs", one and all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    The BBC is never going to be stopped by the government, because it is the device to pacify the British people.

    How is it possible for the greatest wealth inequality in Europe to continue in this country ?

    Why doesn't anybody complain ?

    Because the BBC pacifies you every day. That is it's job.

    The government relies on the BBC, and Saville will not change that, no matter what talking heads say.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Licence fee... Yes, we all know how much w epay for the BBC. But consider this; how much do you pay for ITV? Or all the Channel 4s? Every time you buy an advertised product you pay for commercial TV, and your contribution is not disclosed. And btw, where's ITVs inquiry into the Schofield affair? Or NewsCorps into its own appalling record of distortion? Give me public service ad-free anyday.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.


    we ALL know what he looked like_ there are many people still recovering from having learned 'the hard way' what this monster was capable of _

    = no more demands for run-of-the-mill '500 words and a piccy' articles just publish the relevant information!


  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Can you imagine the outrage if the BBC had not celebrated Savile at the time of his death, or if they had released the truth so soon after his death. This is yet another attack by the vile monsters at NewsCorp intent on destroying the BBC or diluting their content down to a point where it would be impossible to justify the licence fee.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    BBC. Who really cares?
    What a load of old cods......
    Get a life people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    So the female head of news comes back, but both her male subordinates get the punt? They should all go. This is sexual discrimination, and as head of news the buck stopped with HER.

    Typical Beeb, PC gone mad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    But we the viewers and readers are a aware of cover up but those who wrote the report

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Amazing - whatever the report/inquest/enquiry, there was always someone on HYS who knows the real truth and can say that everyone else is covering up. The "man in the pub" for the 21st Century.


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