A PANORAMA documentary has failed to find evidence of a BBC “cover-up” over the decision not to air a Newsnight investigation into the Jimmy Savile sex abuse claims.
The hour-long documentary lifts the lid on the extent to which the higher echelons of the corporation were aware of the claims against the late DJ. BBC foreign editor John Simpson described the scandal as “the worst crisis that I can remember in my nearly 50 years at the BBC”.
Newsnight editor Peter Rippon maintains the piece – which was due to run last December – was pulled for editorial reasons, and not because the potentially damaging revelations coincided with a planned tribute to the star.
But tomorrow night, the hour-long documentary will hear from Newsnight producer Meirion Jones and reporter Liz MacKean, who both claim they had interviewed at least four alleged victims of Savile – and confirmed with Surrey Police that they had investigated sex abuse complaints against the Jim’ll Fix It star in 2007.
They say that when they told bosses the Crown Prosecution Service did not charge Savile because of insufficient evidence, they were told to end the investigation – and the show was withdrawn.
The horror stories about Savile only fully emerged after ITV broadcast a documentary at the start of this month – sparking mayhem at the BBC over losing its scoop and leading to the allegations of a cover-up.
A Panorama statement said: “Peter Rippon has always maintained the story was pulled for ‘editorial reasons’ and not because of a potentially embarrassing clash with planned BBC tributes to Savile over Christmas. Panorama has found no evidence to contradict that view.”
Observers had questioned whether one BBC flagship programme investigating another would lead to a smoking gun.
Mr Simpson said of the fallout: “This is the worst crisis that I can remember in my nearly 50 years at the BBC. I don’t think the BBC has handled it terribly well.”
Panorama also probes why BBC chiefs gave different explanations why the programme was dropped and what it was about.
In the aftermath, director-general George Entwistle wrote to all staff saying the Newsnight investigation was into “Surrey Police’s enquiry into Jimmy Savile towards the end of 2011”.
Mr Jones immediately e-mailed Mr Entwistle countering that, writing: “George – one note – the investigation was into whether Jimmy Savile was a paedophile. I know because it was my investigation. We didn’t know that Surrey Police had investigated Jimmy Savile – no-one did. That was what we found when we investigated and interviewed his victims.”
Then, in an interview, David Jordan, the BBC’s head of editorial policy, said: “They [Newsnight] were investigating the Surrey Police investigation into Savile and they discovered that Surrey Police had done a perfectly decent investigation into Savile, had made recommendations to the CPS and then subsequently it had been dropped because of lack of evidence.”
Mr Jones and Ms MacKean tell the programme-makers their bosses wanted them to stand up a suggestion that Savile was not prosecuted because the Crown Prosecution Service thought he was too old and frail.
When it emerged that was not true and he was not prosecuted because of insufficient evidence the pair were told to abandon the investigation rather than get more proof, Panorama reports.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 5 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: North east