Entertainment & Arts

BBC denies Savile cover-up claims

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Media captionDavid Jordan says Newsnight's report into allegations of sexual assault by Sir Jimmy Savile could still be broadcast

The BBC has said there is "no evidence" to suggest Newsnight was urged to drop an investigation into allegations of sexual assault by Sir Jimmy Savile.

David Jordan, the BBC's director of editorial policy and standards, said any interference from BBC management would only have made reporters "more determined to do it".

"I don't think it's credible... to suggest that senior managers could influence the conduct of an investigation of that sort," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

In an ITV documentary, broadcast on Wednesday night, five women alleged they were sexually assaulted as teenagers by the DJ and presenter in the 1970s, some in his BBC dressing room.

Exposure: The Other Side of Sir Jimmy Savile, which aired at 23:10 BST on ITV1, averaged 1.9 million viewers - more than a quarter of the total audience during that period.

'Matter of judgement'

Mr Jordan said it was "very important that the allegations are made public... not least for the women themselves".

"Victims of sexual abuse have a terrible time reporting that abuse, and speaking about it in public. It is very important for them... that the allegations are properly investigated by the proper authorities and that they are given some sort of closure for what happened to them."

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Media captionDavid Jordan: I don't think it's credible... to suggest that senior managers in one division could influence the conduct of an investigation of that sort

But he denied any suggestion that the Newsnight report was dropped because it was embarrassing to the BBC, and would clash with a tribute to Sir Jimmy broadcast last Christmas.

"It was a matter of judgement for the editor of Newsnight at the time," he told Jim Naughtie.

The Newsnight investigation focused "specifically on allegations that had been made to Surrey police in 2007... and allegations that investigations conducted by the Surrey police had not been done properly", he said

"It turned out not to be true. Surrey police had delivered evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service, and the CPS had decided, on the basis that the evidence they had, that they would not proceed."

"The [Newsnight] editor decided that he didn't want to pursue the general rumours and allegations about Jimmy Savile's sexual conduct in the 60s and 70s, for a variety of reasons - which he spelled out in his blog."

"You and I, Jim, have worked at the BBC for long enough to know that the suggestion that the BBC management in one part of the BBC was reluctant to allow an investigation by a news programme to go ahead, frankly, would only spur that investigation on and make people more determined to do it," said Mr Jordan.

When allegations from the ITV documentary surfaced earlier this week, the BBC issued a statement saying it was "horrified" by suggestions that assaults took place on BBC premises, "or have been carried out by anyone working at the BBC".

They said they would offer "full support" to any police investigation.

"I would absolutely encourage anybody who knows anything, who thinks they witnessed anything, or to whom anything happened, to get in touch with the police," Mr Jordan told the Today programme.

"The BBC has invited the police to look at at any evidence they want, and any evidence we can bring to bear," he added.

Meanwhile, Anne Main MP has written to Lord Justice Leveson urging his inquiry into media ethics to look into the BBC's handling and reporting of the allegations made against Savile.

This would be appropriate, she writes, "given the huge public interest about the 'culture, practice and ethics' of the national broadcaster, and [because] your inquiry is not yet concluded".

On Tuesday, Surrey Police referred an allegation of rape against Savile to the Metropolitan Police.

The Met issued a statement which confirmed the allegation, believed to date back to the 1970s, was "currently under review by the Met police's Sapphire unit - which investigates rape and sexual offences".

Sir Jimmy Savile died in October 2011, at the age 84. The face of Top of the Pops in the 1960s, and host of 1970s TV favourite, Jim'll Fix It, he was knighted in 1990 for his prolific charity work.

"The BBC is working closely with the relevant police authorities," said a statement released on Thursday, by the corporation. "They have asked us to make clear that anyone affected by the issues raised in the ITV programme can contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or their local police force."

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