THOUSANDS of pages of evidence gathered during an inquiry into Newsnight’s decision to drop its Jimmy Savile investigation were today published by the BBC in a bid to be “open and transparent”.
It follows the publication of the Pollard Review in December which concluded the decision to shelve its probe into sexual abuse claims against the television star was “seriously flawed”.
Some 3,000 pages of emails, interviews and submissions from BBC executives and journalists, including Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman, were made available online.
Acting director-general Tim Davie said today: “The BBC has been open and transparent in its handling of this unhappy chapter in our history. It has not been an entirely comfortable process for us to go through but it is right that we did it this way.
“It is important that the BBC now moves forward with the lessons learned and continues to regain the public’s trust.”
BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten pledged at the time of the report’s publication that all the evidence would be released, apart from some redactions for “legal reasons”. Legal teams are said to have been sorting through the evidence for several weeks, deciding what should be made public.
The BBC said today that roughly 3 per cent had been redacted.
Pollard - a former Sky News executive - was appointed to head the review late last year to look into whether management failings were behind the decision to cancel a six week investigation into abuse claims against Savile in December 2011, weeks before a Christmas tribute was broadcast.
The scandal last year claimed the scalp of new director-general George Entwistle little over 50 days into the job.
A separate Newsnight investigation last summer led to Lord McAlpine being wrongly accused of child abuse.
BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten said: “These documents paint a very unhappy picture, but the BBC needs to be open - more open than others would be - in confronting the facts that lie behind Nick Pollard’s report.
“A limited amount of text has been blacked out for legal reasons, but no-one could say that the effect has been to sanitise this material, which again puts a spotlight on some of our failings.
“We need to acknowledge these shortcomings and learn from them.”
In one email headed “Jimmy Savile - paedophile”, producer Meirion Jones, who was involved in establishing the axed Newsnight report, flagged up the idea of an investigation just hours after the presenter’s death was announced.
He proposed the suggestion, possibly for Panorama, because he said some of the girls who had been molested by Savile were ready to talk about their experiences.
He wrote: “Some of the girls are now prepared to talk about this which might make a core to a film about what Jimmy Savile really got up to - and of course he’s dead so he can’t sue.”
His emails also contain vivid transcripts of the sexual activities in which girls at Duncroft approved school - where Savile was a regular visitor - were encouraged to take part.
In another email, which had already been made public, BBC executive Nick Vaughan-Barratt said he felt uncomfortable about preparing a BBC obituary for Savile.
He wrote: “I’d feel v queasy about obit. I saw the real truth.”