'Meltdown' at BBC after decision to drop Newsnight film as highly-paid management struggled to get a grip on crisisReport says 'chaos and confusion' reigned as the crisis grewBBC's chain of command blasted by Pollard'No one took responsibility' finds report
00:38 GMT, 20 December 2012
'Chaos and confusion': The report states that no senior management were able to show decisive leadership as the media storm raged on
‘Chaos and confusion’ gripped the BBC as it struggled to cope with the outcry over its abandoned Newsnight report into Jimmy Savile, a report found yesterday.
Nick Pollard, the former Sky News chief who carried out the inquiry, painted a damning picture of the corporation’s ‘complete inability’ to deal with the events that followed the decision to drop the film.
Parts of the BBC were plunged into ‘virtual meltdown’, but there was a ‘critical lack of leadership and co-ordination’ among highly paid BBC bosses who should have taken control.
There was stinging criticism for the BBC’s ‘rigid management chains’ and its ‘culture of waiting to be told’.
These meant that getting a grip on the story ‘proved beyond the combined efforts of senior management, legal department, corporate communications team and anyone else for well over a month’.
Yesterday the BBC’s deputy director of news Stephen Mitchell, 63, who came in for some of the harshest criticism in the report, announced his retirement.
Newsnight editor Peter Rippon will be axed from the programme over his ‘seriously flawed’ decision to drop the piece, along with his deputy Liz Gibbons – although both will stay at the BBC.
Mr Pollard’s report said the Savile investigation had started a ‘disastrous’ chain of events which led to the ‘one of the worst management crises in the BBC’s history’.
In his 185-page report – which has cost the public about 2million – bosses on six-figure salaries were accused of failing to take responsibility for the controversy.
Mr Pollard criticised the BBC’s insular internal culture and spoke of ‘personal distrust’ and ‘animosity’, notably the breakdown in relations between Mr Rippon and some of his reporting staff on Newsnight.
But while the inquiry found that the decision to drop the investigation had been ‘flawed’ and the way it was taken was ‘wrong’, Mr Pollard believed it had been done in good faith and no ‘undue pressure’ had been used to pull the report.
He also found no evidence linking the decision to planned tributes which were later aired about Savile.
Peter Rippon, Editor of 'Newsnight' during the botched investigation, leaves Newsnight but will stay at the BBC
The inquiry saved its strongest opprobrium for Mr Mitchell, criticising him for his decision to remove the Savile investigation from a list of projects deemed risky enough that they should be shared with other BBC managers.
This would have flagged up the existence of the investigation to other bosses.
The report said this decision was ‘the most fundamental missed opportunity’, and said Mr Mitchell had not given the inquiry a ‘convincing’ reason or ‘credible explanation’ why he had done it.
Mr Mitchell, who is on about 200,000 a year, disagreed with the report’s criticisms of him.
He leaves after nearly 40 years at the BBC with a generous pension but acting director general
Tim Davie said he will not receive a pay-off.
BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten said the BBC accepted the review in its entirety.
PAXMAN LAYS INTO BOSS ABOUT CORPORATE PRESSURE TO AXE EXPOSE
In a showdown with his own editor, Jeremy Paxman told him he did not believe his claim there was no pressure from BBC chiefs to axe Newsnight’s Jimmy Savile investigation.
The veteran inquisitor accused his boss Peter Rippon of failing to answer ‘all of the accusations laid against us’ and added: ‘If we don’t tackle it, it looks like we’re hiding.’
In emails unearthed by the Pollard Review he went on to accuse his boss of caving in under ‘corporate pressure’, saying: ‘It must have been a corporate decision (whatever your blog says)’.
In reply, Rippon insisted ‘it wasn’t … honestly’, and went on to claim he ditched the Savile expose because it was about ‘a dead guy … and not worth the fuss’.