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 429.

    For all the excellent work the BBC does at the tax payers expense, however when they get it wrong they really get it wrong. It should be a huge lesson in the celebrity culture that the BBC has help in our current society, and take more care about the characters they put in front of our young ones.

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    Crises may be whatever but we will never like to let such things happen and be connected with BBC.. Because BBC is always A GREAT CHANNEL having a Best reputation.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    The long and the short of it all is this, if you we do not belong to the "Professional Classes", such as the current establishment types, they will take no notice of any of the rest of us, as we "Are not one of us" and do not count. The "Establishment" looks after it's own. They are all a priviledged position together. WE, the "Plebs" do not count.

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    For goodness sake! The BBC is only for entertainment, it is not something serious, it is not Government! This extensive idiotic coverage of an entertainment outlet, by that entertainment outlet, is just crazy. The BBC is staffed by human beings who make mistakes. Get a life!

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    so what do you have to do to get the sack at the BBC?

    thie more you think about it, the more breath taking the cover up becomes - not one single eprson sacked after investigations into savile were shelved


  • Comment number 424.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    Money & Power Just looking down on us PLEBS..........It`s not going to change any time soon

  • rate this

    Comment number 422.

    would you all prefer murdoch ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 421.

    Everywhere we confront with bad character that bound to be available to neutralize a situation.While we can catch some,the others go scot-free in view of non-availability of enough of strong laws within us.Such incidences are even happening in Religious places too where it is considered as a sin.To bring a balance, we must strike a right solution;so that others don't get an indulgence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 420.

    Many are guilty on this subject,ghosts of past and present.Its been kept quiet until a few months ago.Forget the now and concentrate on those who said nothing.If they have any conscious they will tell all.Sadly corruption rules the day.Maybe if everyone that knew chipped in and cleared their souls we would find out the truth.Not with the facade we have right now.Many are guilty through silence...

  • rate this

    Comment number 419.

    @387 dj205. Well said. The olympic cover was outstanding.
    The whines about licence fee are petty, do they think commercial tv is free, just think every advert has to be funded, all these products have a mark up to cover their budget ! If you have sky you also have a sub fee. I'll stick the with Beeb.It has lots of room for improvement but is miles better than the competition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 418.

    If the BBC is such a great establishment, then how come it chose not to run with the story of the decade to date.

    Is it coincidental that Savile was one of their own?

  • rate this

    Comment number 417.

    383. giovanna

    Listening to a few private phone convos is hardly as bad as hounding a man's family and friends to death about unfounded allegations. Why were these allegations not brought forward sooner? The beeb covered it up then, and they are doing the same now, if it's even true. Which I sincerely doubt.

    Poor Jimmy's family should sue the beeb. Like the Dowlers did to that paper.

  • rate this

    Comment number 416.

    Scandald rocking both the private and public sector again and again prove Britain is just as corrupt as any other place. Then why does it preach, pontificate to everyone else in the rest of the world as though it knows better what to do and how to live than they do? Because it thinks it's France.

  • rate this

    Comment number 415.

    I feel so upset that the truth has been suppressed. By the general nature of his critique, Pollard has let the managers off the hook. The Deputy Director of News will retire, no doubt furnished with a handsome pension, the editor and deputy of Newsnight will move to other posts and Helen Boaden will return from 'stepping aside' BACK to her role as Head of BBC News. What do you take us for?

  • rate this

    Comment number 414.

    Politicians, the press, the banks, the police, the BBC have all betrayed the trust of the public in recent times. Is there anything happening to make us think we can trust them in the future?

  • rate this

    Comment number 413.

    The consequence of all this will undoubtedly be that the BBC Ivory Tower will get a bit taller and less accessible to those who pay for it all, namely the license payers.

    Editors blogs will be far less likely to show what the editor thinks, replaced by more corporate spin.

    And all of these hundreds of comments on HYS will be ignored as always by those who run the BBC

  • rate this

    Comment number 412.

    Helen Boaden is paid a lot of our money (and we have no choice in it,) as Head of News. Her salary reflects the fact that she is meant to take ultimate responsibility for cock ups (or "mistakes/" as apologists are calling them). Yet she is back at work tomorrow as if she was completely detached from the whole thing.

    Arrogant, pompous and incompetent, Patten fits in well in that environment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 411.

    The irony here is that as the BBC desperately seeks to protect its respectability amid the furore over its Jimmy Savile scandal, it pre-moderates 100% of comments on this thread

    Hardly the action of a news organisation seeking respectability.
    Hardly the action of a news organisation encouraging freedom of expression which is not slanderous or offensive.

    Moderate is doublespeak for censorship) :P

  • rate this

    Comment number 410.

    Nobody sacked, one bloke retires early others moved to similarly well paying jobs

    Complete and utter joke, the BBC treats us with complete contempt


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