Senior news executives leave BBC in wake of damning report into Newsnight crisis

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The Independent Online

The BBC was forced to replace a tranche of senior news executives following a damning report into the "chaos and confusion" which surrounded the corporation's "complete inability" to deal with the Jimmy Savile crisis.

Stephen Mitchell, deputy head of news, resigned yesterday following criticism of his role in an aborted Newsnight investigation into Savile's child abuse, detailed in an excoriating report compiled by Nick Pollard, a former head of Sky News.

However other BBC executives, including Helen Boaden, director of news and Peter Rippon, the Newsnight editor, again rejected criticism of their role in the affair and will remain at the BBC, despite Pollard's finding that "leadership and organisation seemed to be in short supply".

The report revealed that George Entwistle had failed to respond to emails sent by senior broadcasting executives, warning him of Savile's "darker side". The first was sent two years before Entwistle became Director-General. The executive said he was "queasy" about preparing an obituary on the star because he knew the "truth" about him.

The email showed that "there was knowledge, not just rumour… about the unsavoury side of Savile's character" in the BBC before and after his death. Mr Entwistle, who quit last month following the McAlpine scandal, said he had not read a second email sent to him after the entertainer's death. Mr Entwistle claimed he had been exonerated since the report attributed any "managerial shortcomings" to "unsatisfactory internal communications".

Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, said: "It remains critical that we do not lose sight of the most important issue in this – the many victims of sexual abuse by Savile."

Mr Pollard's report vindicated the Newsnight reporters Liz Mac- Kean and Meirion Jones, who first persuaded Savile's victims to talk on camera and who fought bitterly to prevent their investigation being quashed. "Their belief that Savile had a history of abusing young women was correct," Mr Pollard ruled. "The programme could have broken the story almost a year before the ITV documentary revealed it."

Welcoming that vindication of the original story, Liz Dux, solicitor for 40 women who have since come forward, said: "The victims don't want to see months more of BBC navel-gazing."

Mr Pollard found no evidence to support the allegation, that senior executives had placed pressure on Rippon to drop the Newsnight report, which would have exposed Savile as a paedophile, because the BBC had a series of tribute programmes planned. But his inquiry, which cost £2m, found the decision to abort the report was "flawed" and that Mr Rippon made "a bad mistake in not examining the evidence", gleaned from interviews with Savile's victims.

Adrian van Klaveren, Radio 5 Live Controller, reluctantly accepted a move to a new job at BBC Television. He had only held a temporary role overseeing Newsnight following the initial chaos – and was involved in approving the catastrophic 2 November report which falsely implicated Lord McAlpine in allegations of abuse.

In a separate report, the BBC's Editorial Standards Committee condemned a "grave breach" of the BBC's editorial standards in relation to that story.

Ted Beston, 76, a former BBC producer for Jimmy Savile, is understood to be the latest person to be arrested by police investigating sexual abuse by the broadcaster. Scotland Yard said a man in his 70s suspected of sexual offences was bailed last night.