Wednesday 21 February 2018

Savile storm sparks civil war in BBC 'blame game'

Sam Marsden

George Entwistle and the BBC's senior management were accused by their staff of making a scapegoat of the 'Newsnight' editor who cancelled the Jimmy Savile investigation.

The broadcaster descended into infighting over the abuse scandal as executives past and present fought to keep their jobs.

Mr Entwistle, the BBC's director-general, has laid the blame for scrapping a 'Newsnight' investigation into Savile's alleged sexual abuse of young girls at the door of Peter Rippon, who was forced to step aside as the programme's editor this week.

This has prompted accusations from BBC journalists that Mr Rippon has been made a fall guy.

Victoria Derbyshire, a presenter on BBC Radio 5 Live, wrote on Twitter yesterday: "If BBC journos/Eds make a poor editorial call, (& most of us hve at some point), will they be treated by mgemnt like Peter Rippon has been?"

As the scandal continued, a Tory MP became the first politician to suggest that Mr Entwistle and Lord Patten of Barnes, chairman of the BBC Trust, may have to "fall on their swords" over the handling of the allegations about the TV personality.

Helen Boaden, the BBC's director of news, was accused of placing an "impossibly high barrier" on the 'Newsnight' investigation into Savile when she told Mr Rippon that there could be no "skimping in journalistic standards" just because the TV star was dead.

In the US, questions have been raised over whether Mark Thompson, the BBC's former director-general, has too much "unwanted baggage" from the Savile scandal to take over as chief executive of The New York Times Company.


Mr Thompson originally said he was not "notified or briefed" about the 'Newsnight' investigation, which was scrapped before it could be broadcast.

However, BBC foreign correspondent Caroline Hawley has said she told the then-director-general about the "broad context" of the axed Savile expose at a Christmas drinks party last December.

"There is nothing to suggest that I acted inappropriately in the handling of this matter," he told the 'New York Times'.

Roger Gale, a Conservative MP, said successive directors-general had "either turned a blind eye to criminal activities or have not known what has been going on on their own doorstep".

He added: "It is as if your favourite and respectable aunt has been revealed to be on the game and if Lord Patten is not able to grasp that, then I fear that not only the director-general but also the chairman of the BBC Trust are going to have to fall on their swords." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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