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 29.

    @23 - Could you give some specific examples of your perceived bias in Newsnight's output? Or is it, as with so many critics of the BBC who post here, merely the fact that they report a point of view which happens to differ from your own...?

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Of course this is very important, but we seem to be losing the real issue, and this is the horrendous abuse of children resulting in thousands(and it is thousands) of damaged lives.
    There are depraved people out there, abusing as you read this. Many of these will sire more children. My view is that anyone convicted of child abuse should be immediately sterilised to save future little ones.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    So, I'm going to hire a lawyer with special social ties, accuse the BBC of thinking about accusing me of doing terrible things and demand a few hundred grand, then I'll get a suntanned buddy from my local 'society' who presents a morning show to not name me and not accuse me of terrible things and demand another few hundred grand from ITV, then I can get some gutless TV 'celebrity' to Twitter...

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Now we have Savile and an extra bonus of more Hillsborough to come. Christmas has come early for the legal profession, but what about all us taxpayers who are forking out for all this nonsense? At the end of it all, cover ups shall remain cover ups and nobody in any authority will be held accountable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Top woman keeps job, yet was not doing the job properly, the lessers get moved sideways or paid off........this is not how a business should be managed, then again, the BBC don't see themselves as a business and accountability is ZILCH. What a shambles, that is the reason Savile got away with it, "Felt Queesy" says it all! The guys knew the truth and said and did nothing, this is criminal !!!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    All that money spent on an inquiry which has came to the conclusion I could have came to months ago. What a shambles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    I'm about to pay the licence fee for this 'independent public broadcaster': can I have a discount? It's just that some parts of the service don't really meet the standard that I would expect! I particulalry find Newsnight somewhat irksome: not only do the presenters generally talk more than they allow their guests to do; but IMO, bias quite often masquerades as 'investigative journalism'!

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    I used to defend the BBC & the licence fee. Not anymore. The last 12 months have changed my opinion!

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    It would appear to me that we are floundering around trying to look for all sorts of people to retrospectively blame/accuse of complicity/mis-reporting etc etc. Saville was a predatory monster. Lets be thankful that he is dead and gone. Investigate by all means, but lets use resources more productively going forward and help potential future victims of these heinous activities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    It is important to note 'no evidence was found' to indicate a BBC cover-up. The BBC had months to cover up their actions in this affair so a lack of evidence is hardly surprising. It will be business as usual at the BBC until they are held responsible for the taxes they receive. The BBC is not above the law.

  • Comment number 19.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Ah, the beauty of hindsight and our love of blaming someone

    They shelved the Savile story in case it was wrong, but get slammed because it was actually right. 'Can't believe you didn't run it?!'

    Then they run with the 'McAlpine' story, and get slammed because it was actually wrong. 'Can't believe you didn't shelve it?!'

    Perhaps the editors are actually humans, not omniscient beings?

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Just when did we start this unnecessary & bizarre practice of judging people's decisions & behaviour in the distant past & overlaying it on current politically correct fanaticism ?

    There doesn't seem a day when the PM isn't apologising for something & throwing taxpayers money like confetti for some misdemeanour 10, 20 or 30 years ago !

    Are the lawyers in on this ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    @8 BBC too big to fail...

    The BBC must be a much bigger player in the media than any of the 'too big to fail' banks are in financial services, so when are we going to hear calls for the BBC to be broken up?....

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Still don't see what was wrong with the newsnight piece that led to MacAlpine being named online.

    They broadcast somones testimony, didn't name the guy, that was done on the web and was not under their control.

    I'm still disgusted that my license fee when to making a rich toff richer! Happy for him to sue the twitterati though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    I keep wondering what would have happened if the BBC had pulled the tribute programmes before the Newsnight investigation had been broadcast which, given the Christmas timetabling, they would probably have to have done. What would the public reaction have been then? Trashing a loved presenter without evidence?

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Real story of Savile is where he went to get 'shelter' to carry out his crimes - the Quango from Hell - BBC - as DG had to resign as BBC would still have covered up & protected one of their own - Mr Savile until the very end.
    Next we have Sleazenight smearing innocent people as pursuing their own personal political vendetta against all things 'conservative'.
    Full review of BBC £3.7 bn pa waste?

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    It's not hard to believe there was no cover up, it's impossible ! Saville was a major star for the BBC and in todays parlance "too big to fail". People must have known or at least had major suspicions, some may not have liked it but who was going to stick their neck out to expose a major money spinner ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    So, now are we going to have a full and proper investigation and programme, by real journalists into Savile's disgusting actions and ALL of the people he was so closely connected to in the BBC, charities, politics and the higher echelons of British society?

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.


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