Pollard inquiry

'The Jimmy Savile crisis? I don't have the time to do this': BBC report reveals chaos and paralysis in handling allegations

Director-General's rationale for inaction on reports of abuse laid bare by Pollard transcripts as Corporation faces fresh questions over how PRs changed Newsnight blog

The chaos and paralysis that beset the BBC's most senior executives during the Jimmy Savile crisis has been laid bare in excruciating detail.

When the journalists with evidence of Savile's sex crimes approached the then-Director-General George Entwistle directly to warn him that the Corporation was misleading the public, he decided: “I don't have time to do this – I've got a lot of other things to do.” Rather than ask his Director of News, Helen Boaden, what had happened in her division, Mr Entwistle told investigators afterwards that he was “very much alive to the notion of not sticking my nose into her business”.

The BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten has accused his senior colleagues of deliberately misleading him over the official account they gave the public about the Savile scandal, which had been repeatedly edited and approved by the BBC's spin doctors and executives.

The 3,000 pages of evidence released today showed that the furious BBC Trust chairman accused his colleagues of deliberately using him as a conduit to feed the public false information about why Newsnight's Savile exposé was axed. “I am pretty convinced that people knew the blog [explanation] was incorrect,” he told the Pollard review into the BBC's mishandling of the crisis. “It does seem to me that there are reasonable grounds for assuming that people knew the blog was dodgy a lot earlier and we were left defending something which wasn't true.”

The blog was presented to readers of the BBC website as a piece of editorial content, independently written by the editor of Newsnight, Peter Rippon, and explaining his personal decision to withhold the programme's investigation into Savile's past as a sex offender. Three weeks later, the blog was found to be “inaccurate or incomplete”.

Evidence released yesterday from the Pollard review shows that the Rippon blog was in fact a corporate composition, with amendments to Mr Rippon's original draft made by the BBC head of corporate public affairs, Andrew Scadding, the director of public affairs, Paul Mylrea, and the head of communications at BBC News, Paddy Feeney. The blog was then “signed off” by both Helen Boaden, director of BBC News and her deputy, Stephen Mitchell.

Under questioning at the Pollard inquiry, Mr Entwistle said: “I would never want the press office to get involved in journalism under any circumstances.” Asked if that meant that Rippon's piece was “not journalism”, he responded: “I think there is a sense in which it isn't journalism because it is about the workings of the BBC.” Mr Rippon also told the review that the editor's blog was “corporate” and that the press office was involved. But Mr Mylrea told the review that the blog was strictly “an editorial product”, insisting: “I can make stylistic suggestions but they can be refused.”

The BBC yesterday released documents relating to the review, conducted late last year by Nick Pollard, the former head of Sky News. Collectively they portrayed a BBC management that was obsessed with procedures and utterly incapable of getting to basic truths. The organisation's executives mistrusted their own journalists who had done the work on the ground and were desperate to cover their backs.

The most scathing descriptions of the BBC's failures were put forward by the Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman who described the episode as a “balls up” and the BBC's repeated failure to run the Savile story as “pathetic”. He was damning of the apparent determination of BBC management to make Mr Rippon the fall guy for the whole affair: “I think the BBC's behaviour now is almost as contemptible as it was then.”

As it tried to manage the crisis, the BBC grandly styled itself in terms of the Cabinet Office Briefing Room (COBR) at a moment of national peril. Mr Entwistle appointed himself Gold Commander, with deputies given the rank of silver and bronze. But in reality that management team – described by Lord Patten in evidence released yesterday as having “more senior leaders than China” – was chaotic and “faffing about”, as the BBC Trust chairman put it.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Opilio Recruitment: Full Stack Software Developer

£35k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Opilio Recruitment: Senior Digital Designer

£50k - 55k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An exciting opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Vertical Sales Director

Market related: Opilio Recruitment: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

Opilio Recruitment: Senior Sales Executive

£25k - 28k per year + OTE & Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game