| 12.8°C Dublin

BBC film to question director general's role in Savile saga

THE BBC scrapped its investigation into whether Jimmy Savile was a paedophile after 'Newsnight' came "under pressure" from senior managers, a documentary will claim tonight.

George Entwistle, the BBC director-general, will be accused by his own journalists of misleading the public about his role in the scandal.

An hour-long 'Panorama' special, featuring newly disclosed emails and interviews, will raise serious questions about Mr Entwistle's role in the decision to drop a 'Newsnight' expose of Savile.

It will also question the veracity of public statements he and other senior BBC bosses have made in recent days about why it was shelved.

The documentary, 'Jimmy Savile -- What the BBC Knew' will disclose that Mr Entwistle was told he "might have to change the Christmas schedules" if the 'Newsnight' film went ahead because it would clash with tribute programmes to Savile.

Mr Entwistle has insisted that he played no part in the decision to cut the 'Newsnight' film, but 'Panorama' will claim that Peter Rippon, the editor of 'Newsnight', said he could not broadcast the film "if the bosses aren't happy".

Liz MacKean, a 'Newsnight' reporter, told the programme that Mr Rippon had enthusiastically given the go-ahead for the film to be broadcast but had an "abrupt change" of heart and appeared be be "under pressure" from above. Emails obtained by the programme appear to add further weight to suspicions that some of the BBC's most senior executives decided the Savile investigation should be dropped to spare the corporation embarrassment.

It puts Mr Entwistle's future in doubt just a month after he became director-general and leaves him with questions to answer when he is grilled on the affair by MPs tomorrow.

Greg Dyke, the former director-general of the BBC, said yesterday that if a senior executive had told the 'Newsnight' team to call off their investigation "I don't think that person can survive".

John Simpson, the BBC's world affairs editor, described the scandal as "the worst crisis" at the corporation for at least 50 years. 'Panorama' will also reveal that the 'Newsnight' team was investigating the extent of Savile's paedophilia, rather than the reasons police failed to prosecute him in 2007, as had previously been claimed. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent