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 89.

    Doesn't really matter what the official outcome is because the damage is already done and there will now always be doubt about the integrity and veracity of what they say. The cumulative bias the BBC has shown in the past together with all the scandals over the years have tarnished it and created a degree of sceptisism about it's activites that won't go away.

  • Comment number 88.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Ok people don't trust the BBC, so scrap all the pc political rubbish, like Asian Network and alll the propoganda we pay for. Fire the Match of the day lot and cut licence to £50 tapering to zilch in 10 years. BUT don't sell the assetts off for a pittance as they usually do!

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    Have you noticed that no inquiry into anything has ever found any evidence of a cover up?

    It makes me feel all warm and secure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Hmm... BBC organises an investigation into itself. And this is the result.

    Well you could knock me down with a feather...

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    The relevance of Savile and his crimes decades ago and until recently is very pertinent to today's society. As some children's charities are saying, what happened 'yesterday' could still be happening today. Please speak out, don't let this absolute evil happen again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    This is a sideshow. The real issue is how Savile and others got away with abuse for so long
    It is not only a BBC issue. A former newspaper owner is due in Court soon accused of rape of under age girls.
    News Corp and its dupes will pile in. We've already had predictably inane remarks from Maria Miller;others will follow.
    The BBC is not perfect; but the alternative is the bigotted Fox "News"

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    The BBC are not Evil, just incompetent.

    Great news there then!

    At least they are not Evil AND incompetent, that would be really annoying when I pay my licence fee.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    @nautonier #45 - You don't feel you should pay for Asian Network just because you don't listen to it? Well I don't watch Top Gear, BBC3, or listen to any BBC radio except Radio 4. I'm happy to pay for there to be a choice though, because if there was no choice then I'd have to listen to whatever station YOU listen to all the time. Asian, Gaelic, Welsh broadcasting by the BBC is a public service.

  • Comment number 80.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Odd, another 'none' cover up, just like the Climate28 'none' cover up. No story here move along please, just keep on sending us your millions of pounds in license fee money.
    Just how long do the BBC think they can get away with this institutionalised arrogance?

  • Comment number 78.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Thank god no senior management have been sacked over their part in this total fiasco. Their massive salaries and pensions are safe - what a relief - we don't want any more on the dole queue do we?.
    Seems to be a lot of " i don't recall" or "can't remember" perhaps they should look for younger staff without senile dementia? - still, jobs for the boys, gong alert for those who resign...

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    OK BBC you done wrong. But you are still set the highest standard by which other media organisations are judged. So forgive yourself, learn from it and move on. The Panarama program on the tax avoiding Barclay brothers was excellent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    I have watched 'Newswatch' over many years and I have never hear any BBC representative agree with any of the complaints mentioned each week. They always put on a spin which justifies anything they do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Will the BBC consider management redundancies to foot the bill for all this? Or will all the costs again fall on production staff?

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    Why did it take so long to come up with such a bland statement. BBC management could have issued those findings in a week. Bring back an outsider like Greg Dyke, so bored with the BBC's complacency. No wonder the public are so disillusioned with politics, business and the state. Talk about old boys network. Whoops sorry boys and girls network.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Scepegoating Peter Rippon would have been a whitewash, but doing nothing about those above him is an affront to the license fee payers' intelligence. The BBC is not a bank yet to behave with such a degree of disrespect to its effectively stakeholders. In a conspiracy theory, one would read "finding a new role for Peter Rippon" as a sign that perhaps he knows too much and might not keep silent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    BBC structure is that editorial decisions and decisions to broadcast are made at editorial level with limited interference from above - to try to maintain an independence of reporting and avoid an overall bias. Yes it was a wrong decision re the Newsnight report (hindsight?) and an unfortunate overreaction to this resulted in a report being broadcast that shouldn't but lets avoid going overboard!

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    The outcome of this report underlines the long overdue need for a root and branch re-organisation of the BBC management. it has been my opinion for years that top management has been aloof from the lower levels of management thus leaving we licence payers with the BBC we have today


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