Chaos and incompetence at BBC over Savile scandal – yet STILL nobody gets the sackBosses ignored warnings about DJ's 'dark side'Newsnight editor forced to take blame to protect the director generalHead of news censured – but she will be back at her desk today
08:52 GMT, 20 December 2012
BBC chiefs were alerted to Jimmy Savile’s ‘dark side’ months before it became public, it emerged yesterday.
They learned ‘the real truth’ about the twisted entertainer more than two years ago – while he was still alive.
Yet nothing was done, and shortly after his death, fulsome tribute programmes were aired and a Newsnight expose of his paedophile past was scrapped.
A damning report yesterday revealed ‘chaos’ and a ‘critical lack of leadership’ at the heart of the BBC. But in spite of the scathing conclusions, no one will be sacked.
Pass the buck: George Entwistle made an 'ethically dubious' attempt to shift the blame over the Savile crisis
The report by former Sky News head Nick Pollard brands the corporation ‘incapable’ of getting to grips with the Savile crisis and said it was mired in ‘chaos and confusion’.
It also revealed:
A culture of distrust and a ‘critical lack of leadership’ crippled the BBC’s response to the crisis.Former director general George Entwistle was incapable of getting a grip and made an ‘ethically dubious’ bid to shift the blame elsewhere.Newsnight failed to provide police with the evidence of Savile’s crimes – leading to accusations that it had ‘been sitting on evidence for several months’.The public were repeatedly misled as bosses failed to ‘get the truth’ about what happened.
As the excoriating report was published, BBC deputy director of news Stephen Mitchell retired and Newsnight’s editor Peter Rippon and his deputy Liz Gibbons lost their posts.
But incredibly, none of the bosses moved from their posts will be sacked. And director of news Helen Boaden – censured for failing to tackle the ‘meltdown’ in her department – returns to her desk today after a period of gardening leave.
Tory MP Rob Wilson said the report suggested ‘the BBC lives in a separate moral universe from the rest of the country’, adding: ‘The public will be questioning why no one has been sacked as a result of these serious failings.’
The Savile case has become one of the biggest sex abuse scandals in British history, with 450 victims now saying they were abused by the DJ.
Yet the BBC failed to unmask him as a predatory paedophile after scrapping its Newsnight investigation and failing to even pass on crucial evidence to the police.
Were it not for an ITV documentary shown in October, his four-decade rampage of abuse may never have come to light.
Culpability: Entwistle resigned less than a month after he took the director general role, but no one involved in the Savile debacle will lose their jobs
BBC executives and celebrities accused of turning a blind eye to Savile’s offending have repeatedly insisted they were powerless to act on mere ‘rumours’.
But Mr Pollard said there was ‘real knowledge, not just rumour’ within BBC television ‘about the unsavoury side of Savile’s character’.
Mr Entwistle was sent explosive emails warning of Savile’s ‘dark side’ as he prepared to order tribute programmes after the DJ died in October 2011.
But Mr Entwistle – handed 450,000 of licence-payers’ money when he quit the BBC after the Lord McAlpine disaster – claims he never read the email warnings and did not ask any questions.
His claims were undermined by forensic examination of Mr Entwistle’s two email accounts, which showed the emails had been opened.
Withheld: The report also found that Newsnight may have sat on evidence about Savile's crimes for months
The first were sent to him on May 29, 2010 – a full 17 months before Savile died – by Nick Vaughan-Barratt, former BBC head of events, who warned he would feel ‘very queasy’ if the BBC produced an obituary for Savile when he died as he knew ‘the real truth’.
But instead of finding out what was meant by this, Mr Entwistle says he does not recall the email.
Then after Savile died, on October 29, 2011, BBC commissioning editor Jan Younghusband emailed Mr Entwistle about ‘the darker side’ of Savile.
Mr Entwistle, then the BBC’s head of television, told the Pollard Review he ‘could not remember’ reading that email, and did not reply to it.
Yet on the same day, Mr Entwistle did reply to a separate email suggesting the BBC produce a ‘homage’ to Savile, saying it was ‘a great idea’.
Mr Pollard found that, as the Savile crisis threatened Mr Entwistle, the director general devised a strategy to save himself by heaping all the blame on his Newsnight editor.
He told Miss Boaden and two other senior executives: ‘I have decided that I need to protect the BBC and BBC News within it, and I’m going to do a statement that makes it impossible for Peter not to resign.’
He backed down when ‘it was pointed out that this was an ethically dubious thing to do’, Mr Pollard was told.
Miss Boaden has survived in her 340,000-a-year job while her 63-year-old second-in-command Mr Mitchell has resigned – leading to an old joke recirculating around the BBC that in times of crisis at the corporation, ‘deputy heads will roll’.
Miss Boaden’s lawyers had suggested to Mr Pollard it would be wrong to criticise her and attribute failings to her during this period.
But he said she ‘should have taken greater responsibility’. He said he was ‘surprised’ she did not take ‘a more proactive role’ particularly given that a ‘significant part of her division’ was in ‘virtual meltdown’.
The BBC spent 2million on the Pollard Review to find out if corporation chiefs scrapped the Newsnight investigation to preserve their Christmas schedule, which was to include the Savile tribute shows.
Mr Pollard concluded that although the BBC’s decision was ‘seriously flawed’ it had not been taken for this reason.
Mr Entwistle said the report made clear that ‘I played no part in determining the fate of the Newsnight expose on Jimmy Savile’.
He added: ‘As director general, in October 2012, as soon as I became aware of allegations of sexual abuse against Savile, I took the matter straight to the police and offered the BBC’s full co-operation with their investigations.’
The Commons Public Accounts Committee yesterday attacked the BBC for a ‘cavalier’ use of public money over the 450,000 ‘golden handshake’ it gave to Mr Entwistle, and other executive pay-outs…. and no one loses their job over slur on Lord McAlpine
No one is to be sacked over the second BBC scandal, in which Lord McAlpine was wrongly branded a paedophile after a disastrous Newsnight report.
A separate probe published yesterday found bungling news executives failed to conduct ‘basic checks’ and ignored their own editorial guidelines.
The fiasco, which prompted George Entwistle’s resignation as BBC director general, was a ‘grave breach which had been costly to all concerned’, said the report by the BBC Trust.
But the report – based on an internal investigation by Ken MacQuarrie, director of BBC Scotland – did not recommend any sackings.
A second report into the botched Newsnight investigation didn't recommend any sackings, despite 'basic checks' being ignored
It also failed to identify all those who ‘signed off’ the report for broadcast, causing one of the worst mistakes in modern journalism.
There is no attempt to explain, for example, why the BBC’s highly paid army of lawyers failed to stop the damaging report being aired.
However the BBC Trust said three BBC employees had been ‘subject to disciplinary action’. One is Liz Gibbons, who was editing Newsnight on November 2 when the report was broadcast, who has been moved to another job at the BBC.
Lord McAlpine was wrongly linked to a child sex abuse scandal as a result of the Newsnight investigation. The BBC was forces to pay 185,000 in damages
Another is BBC Radio 5 Live controller Adrian Van Klaveren, who was overseeing Newsnight in the wake of Savile, and is to step down from his role. The third is unknown.
The programme, which featured an interview with Steve Messham who said a senior political figure of the time abused him, led to the widespread naming of Lord McAlpine.
The Tory peer, who had not been contacted by the programme, strenuously denied the allegations, and is now suing all those who wrongly named him.
It later emerged that Mr Messham had not even been shown a photo of the politician – and when he eventually saw one, he realised he had made a mistake.
The following week, Newsnight broadcast an apology, as well as apologies from Mr Messham. Lord McAlpine later received 185,000 damages from the corporation.
The probe said matters were made worse by the fact that, in the hours prior to broadcast, Iain Overton, managing editor of the Bureau of
Investigative Journalism which worked on the report, tweeted: ‘If all goes well we’ve got a Newsnight out tonight about a very senior political figure who is a paedophile’.
The MacQuarrie Report said this caused ‘alarm and consternation’ among the Newsnight editorial team, and acting editor Miss Gibbons asked Angus Stickler, the BIJ reporter working on the McAlpine programme, to call Overton ‘immediately and tell him to stop tweeting’.
The Trust’s editorial standards committee said: ‘This was a high-risk report which required rigorous supervision and did not receive it.
‘The allegations were not based on sound evidence. They were not thoroughly tested and, whilst there was no suggestion that the programme-makers had sought to mislead the public, this had been the effect.’
WATCH Pollard's damning findings and a response from Lord Patten
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