“Chaos,” “confusion” and “seriously flawed” are some of the terms used to describe the inner workings of the BBC in an official review of the broadcaster’s handling of the Jimmy Savile child-sex scandal.
The review -- published on Wednesday by the BBC Trust and carried out independently by former Sky News boss Nick Pollard -- found that the embattled British broadcaster was “completely incapable” of dealing with the ongoing scandal surrounding the formerly beloved TV host Jimmy Savile. Authorities believe Savile may have sexually abused as many as 200 underage girls over four decades.
While Pollard had harsh words for the BBC’s myopic adherence to “rigid management chains,” the investigator found no evidence of a cover-up in the broadcaster’s decision to shelve a 2011 episode of “Newsnight” that featured an exposé of Savile’s alleged pattern of abuse. The episode was scheduled to air just weeks after the host died, but Peter Rippon, “Newsnight’s” editor, chose not to air it. Pollard had been investigating claims that Rippon shelved the episode under pressure from BBC bosses, who did not want to sully Savile’s name before planned tributes to the late host had a chance to air.
“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,” Pollard told a press conference on Wednesday. “It was not done to protect the Savile tribute programs or for any improper reason.”
Pollard added that the BBC should have notified police about the allegations that were brought to light in the “Newsnight” episode, whether it aired or not. It wasn’t until the following October that the BBC’s rival network, ITV, aired its own exposé in which 10 women came forward claiming to have been abused by Savile when they were schoolgirls. That program prompted an investigation by Scotland Yard, which is still in progress.
While Pollard found no evidence of a cover-up, he had harsh words for BBC management’s ineptitude in the face of the ensuing scandal.
“When the full force of the affair broke in October 2012, the BBC’s management system proved completely incapable of dealing with it,” he told the British press. “This report shows that the level of chaos and confusion was even greater than was apparent at the time beyond the combined efforts of the senior management, legal department and corporate communications team.”
In light of the findings, the BBC is replacing Rippon and his deputy editor. Responding to the report, the BBC Trust said it will fall upon Lord Tony Hall, the BBC’s incoming director, to reform the broadcaster’s management culture.
Meanwhile, British police on Wednesday detained the eighth person to be questioned in connection with the scandal. Ted Beston, 76, a former producer for BBC Radio One, is suspected of sexual abuse, but so far has not been charged. He worked with the late Savile on the radio show “Savile’s Travels,” where Savile referred to him as Uncle Ted.