Savile inquiry: Paxman said DJ rumours 'common gossip'


Acting director general Tim Davie: "This is a tough report to read"

Jeremy Paxman told a BBC inquiry into Newsnight's axed Jimmy Savile investigation that it was "common gossip" the DJ liked "young" people.

The Newsnight presenter said it was assumed they were girls, but he did not know "whether it was girls or boys".

But news executive Helen Boaden said she "had never heard any dark rumours".

The BBC has published transcripts from an inquiry that found Newsnight's decision to drop its probe into sexual abuse by Savile had been "flawed".

About 3,000 pages of emails, interviews and submissions from BBC executives and journalists have been published online by the corporation.

However, the BBC says it has blacked out about 3% of details for legal reasons.

Since Savile's death in 2011 aged 84, allegations have emerged that lead police to believe the late Radio 1 DJ and Jim'll Fix It presenter sexually abused hundreds of children and young people over five decades.

Information which has come to light in the transcripts includes:

  • Details of comments left on a BBC online tribute page to Savile that were removed by moderators. A transcript of the interview with ex-BBC director general George Entwistle includes reference to comments saying: "One of my best friends in 1972 was molested by this creep Savile. He was never the same again. Killed himself in 1985. How's About That Then?"
  • Meanwhile, a review has been ordered into the way Surrey Police handled historical child sex investigations, including some involving Savile
  • Ms Boaden, director of BBC News, told the inquiry there was never any indication Mr Entwistle knew of Savile's predilections when she discussed Newsnight's investigation with Mr Entwistle at an awards dinner: "Absolutely not... he just said: 'Thank you, keep me posted.' I mean he was quite poker faced, really"

The BBC's David Sillito says there are no dramatic revelations in the documents

  • Mr Entwistle, on the decision to run a tribute programme about Savile in December 2011, said: " I had not heard any specific rumours about Savile, by that I mean, 'On such and such an occasion he did such and such a thing.' I don't believe I had heard any rumours of that kind"
  • Asked why he felt "lukewarm" about the Savile report, then-Newsnight editor Peter Rippon said: "It was a combination of a feeling in my stomach that these stories... can be very difficult to pull off... and doing it so soon after his death was going to compound that"
  • Former director general Mark Thompson said in his evidence that "like many other people who have devoted their lives to this institution, I feel both sad and angry that such terrible crimes and suffering occurred within the BBC"
  • BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten told the inquiry: "With the next director general - or his senior colleagues - I won't begin every conversation on the assumption that they or she may not be telling me the whole truth, but I will want to be more convinced that there is a structure in place which ensures that the truth is being told"

During his interview for the Pollard Review, Mr Paxman said: "It was, I would say, common gossip that Jimmy Savile liked, you know, young - it was always assumed to be girls.

"I don't know whether it was girls or boys. But I had no evidence of it, and I never saw anything that made me take it more seriously than it was common gossip."

But, describing why he felt the shelving of the Newsnight investigation had been wrong, he said: "These people prey upon children in vulnerable situations and when the children complain they are not believed.

"I thought that we had behaved just like many other authorities and I didn't like it."

'Lessons learned'

Meanwhile, Mr Paxman's fellow Newsnight presenter, Kirsty Wark, said there "was definitely a communications problem" between Mr Rippon and the journalists working on the Savile investigation.

Liz Dux, Savile victims' lawyer: "We're told that it's for legal reasons... but because it's redacted we can't see"

Acting director general Tim Davie said that by releasing the transcripts, the BBC was being "open and transparent in its handling of this unhappy chapter in our history".

But he said details had been removed for reasons of defamation, data privacy, protection of confidential sources, anonymity for victims of sexual assault, potential prejudice to or interference with police investigations or ongoing criminal proceedings, legal professional privilege and confidentiality - where a genuine and identifiable interest of the BBC is at stake.

He added: "It has not been an entirely comfortable process for us to go through but it is right that we did it this way.

"It is important that the BBC now moves forward with the lessons learned and continues to regain the public's trust."

Speaking after the documents' publication, Lord Patten said: "These documents paint a very unhappy picture, but the BBC needs to be open - more open than others would be - in confronting the facts that lie behind Nick Pollard's report.

Will the Pollard evidence be remembered more for what's in it or what's been cut out?

Ahead of publication, newspapers reported that Jeremy Paxman and Lord McAlpine were both upset that the full evidence was not to be revealed. But another paper said the BBC would be "engulfed" in a mountain of "deeply unedifying" material.

The BBC is in a no-win position. If some of the evidence does prove explosive, it will grab the headlines. If it doesn't, the "censorship" will become the story.

So why is any of it being withheld? Lord Patten always said some material would be redacted for legal reasons. The BBC says these include protecting the confidentiality of sources or victims of Jimmy Savile, and avoiding the risk of libel actions.

It denies claims that it simply wants to avoid further embarrassing its managers, but that suspicion remains.

"A limited amount of text has been blacked out for legal reasons, but no-one could say that the effect has been to sanitise this material, which again puts a spotlight on some of our failings. We need to acknowledge these shortcomings and learn from them."

Conservative peer and former party treasurer Lord McAlpine has accused the BBC of behaving like the "secret service" by using redactions of the inquiry transcripts to censor criticism of senior executives.

The peer was falsely accused of child abuse after a BBC Newsnight broadcast. He was not named on the programme but was wrongly identified on social media outlets and by some blogs that incorrectly speculated about the person's identity.

In a report on that broadcast, BBC Scotland director Ken MacQuarrie found Newsnight staff had failed to complete "basic journalistic checks".

The Pollard Review was set up by the BBC to decide if there were management failings over the six-week Savile investigation, which was dropped by Newsnight in December 2011.

The report, headed by former head of Sky News Nick Pollard and published in December, concluded the decision to shelve the investigation was "seriously flawed" but "done in good faith".

It dismissed claims it was dropped to protect tribute shows to Savile, and found no evidence of a cover-up, but was highly critical of BBC bosses in describing "chaos and confusion" and "leadership in short supply".

The BBC accepted the findings in full and the corporation announced a series of staff changes after it was published.

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.

The key figures - Where are they now?

Name Then Now
Mark Thompson

Mark Thompson

Director general (2004-2012)

New York Times chief executive and president

George Entwistle

George Entwistle

Director general (Sept-Nov 2012)


Tim Davie

Tim Davie

Director of audio and music

Acting director general

Helen Boaden

Helen Boaden

Director of news

Director of radio

Steve Mitchell

Steve Mitchell

Deputy director of news and head news programmes


Peter Rippon

Peter Rippon

Editor of Newsnight

Editor of BBC News online archive

Meirion Jones

Meirion Jones

Newsnight journalist

Panorama journalist

Liz MacKean

Liz MacKean

Newsnight reporter

Newsnight reporter


More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 603.

    Get with it people. England has an elite class that are untouchable. Has done for decades. Entertainers, banksters, politicians, royal family favourites, you know the type.

    When one of these people, or groups commit a crime, it is a scandal, investigated by an enquiry by those with vested interest. Only for us plebs is there a crime, and court ruling and imprisonment etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 602.

    Mr Paxman says it was common gossip, common gossip like this in my work place would have been reported to the police, someone needs to look at themselves, in fact lots need to look into a mirror and ask if they could have done more instead of acting like fish wives and gossips.

  • Comment number 601.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 600.

    Jimmy Saville cannot face his accusers, a pity this did not come out when he was alive. Thing to do is to learn from this and not let it happen again.

    The awful truth is that people in power will abuse it; or other vulnerable/innocent/ingenuous people around them. This happens in large corporations, media, music, religion, sport and welfare state - it is a sad world we bring our children into.

  • rate this

    Comment number 599.

    It is time we start taking our children's protection seriously - enough is enough.

    Peadophiles look just like you & me - you cannot tell by looking at someone, or knowing them, they are very, very sneaky.

    We need the Vetting & Barring SCheme introduced ASAP - any less is to leave our children to suffer at the hands of the next JS.....and the one after.....and the one after that......

  • rate this

    Comment number 598.

    The fact that he cannot defend himself makes this process a bit less credible. Yes, he did very bad things, but he is dead, and nothing will change that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 597.

    "what I can never understand is the fact that some comments that I rate are given two points shall we say and others are given one"

    This has been explained so many times it's getting boring. Your page only updates when YOU do something to force it to, like voting. When the count jumps two, it's because someone else has also voted in the time between the initial display and your forced update.

  • rate this

    Comment number 596.

    Good comment edward. I am appalled with all the facts that are slowly emerging. Makes one wonder what else is being kept under wraps. Journalists abroad reporting on starving children whilst they themselves stay in luxury hotels at fee payers' expense. 3 reporters on local news : 1 for the news, 1 for the travel and 1 for the weather in a 10 minute slot. Keep MPs and Royals happy BBC

  • rate this

    Comment number 595.

    What Jimmy did was wrong, but he also did a lot of good. I am not saying one cancels the other but celebrities think they can do whatever they like because the system allows them to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 594.

    3/4 of comments are being held in a queue, even if they are not malicious.

    Typical BBC

  • rate this

    Comment number 593.

    There is no accountability at senior levels in public funded bodies.

    It seems simply too easy to throw taxpayers money to hush incompetent management & move them on.

    It is a disgrace.

    They get ftse 100 executive pay but they are are not accountable, every time it is a systemic fault

    Politicians seem incapable of controlling their pay, their performance & their accountability.

  • rate this

    Comment number 592.

    @565 what a ridiculously comment. You obviously think there's something wrong with someone else's views so accept that people might think you are wrong too. Grow up.

    Happy to see the BBC self-destruct; all they're doing is making themselves look like the bunch of self-serving, nose-in-the-trough, left-wing hypocrites happy to hound anyone not toeing their line but quick to protect their own.

  • rate this

    Comment number 591.

    Never seen so many posts censored.

    BBC transparent, I don't think so.

    I have not said anything remotely controversial so why all the censoring?

  • rate this

    Comment number 590.

    @ 549. Lorra ---- 40 years ago .... You could get away with anything then, and Savile did and one of many still undetected.

    Lorra, this has been going on for thousands of years and will continue to go on. Please don't be so naive to think 40 years ago was some kind special aberration of history.

  • rate this

    Comment number 589.

    Attention BBC: the picture of Savile you're using at the top of these articles is a 'glamour' shot --- you should replace it with a far more neutral one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 588.

    539.Doctor Foster

    "There is an unpalatable whiff of the lynch mob in these comments! Saville might have been an odious little character but he hasn't yet been found guilty of anything."

    And as he's now dead and cannot stand trial, will never be.

    "Saville still remains innocent."

    Only a fool would say that. It's pretty obvious now what he was up to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 587.

    544. Wandalust1956
    the BBC is now pre-moderating....they are not allowing freedom of speech
    People who make this kind of comment don't really appreciate the concept of FoS. There are plenty of comments on here that demonstrate that despite the HYS rules you can say pretty much whatever you like, maybe just not HOW you like. There is a difference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 586.

    How will this affect the BBC children in need campaign? - these children were in need but nothing was done...surely there is now a dissonance between one and the other.

  • rate this

    Comment number 585.

    Typical Paxman, common gossip, I thought all Newsnight needed to destroy reputations was gossip.

  • rate this

    Comment number 584.

    You da man. You're hitting nails on their heads all the way. Simple folk like me used to believe what you see is what you get, but now we learn nearly every day, we're the MUGS.


Page 2 of 32


More UK stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.