Panorama on Savile: 'No stone left unturned'

Pressure mounts on editor of 'Newsnight' over decision to drop report on abuse claims
  • @cahalan

Pressure was mounting on Peter Rippon, the editor of Newsnight, last night ahead of a damning Panorama investigation into the Savile scandal that "will leave no stone unturned". Details of the programme, to be aired tomorrow, emerged as the police confirmed that Jimmy Savile may have abused up to 200 victims and that they were now investigating suggestions that an informal network of abusers around him exploited underage girls and boys. The alleged abusers, some named by Savile's victims, will be pursued with a view to charges, police confirmed last night.

The programme is due to air hours before the BBC director-general, George Entwistle, gives evidence to the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee. It will hear claims that Mr Rippon ditched the controversial Savile Newsnight segment by switching the thrust of the programme from claims of child abuse to whether a police investigation was dropped because Savile was too old. One BBC insider said the controller of BBC1, Danny Cohen, ordered Panorama's editor, Tom Giles, "to leave no stone unturned and save the respectability of the BBC".

In the Panorama programme, Meirion Jones and Liz MacKean, two senior Newsnight journalists who worked on the original dropped segment, will state that Mr Rippon narrowed the investigation – a claim he has always denied.

The programme may also touch on why the BBC's own investigation into the dropping of the segment, headed by the former Sky News executive Nick Pollard, will not look at the editorial reasons behind Mr Rippon's decision. Some claim Mr Pollard's terms of reference do not allow him to fully explore if Mr Rippon sacrificed the programme to allow Savile tributes to air. Yet a failure to ask his reasons would weaken the investigation's credibility, possibly leading to claims of a whitewash. One well-placed newsroom source said: "[The omission] is absolutely ridiculous."

As Mr Entwistle prepares for an hour's grilling by the Culture Committee, it also emerged that Ms MacKean sent him an email saying that "misleading statements" from the BBC press office were "fuelling damaging claims of a cover-up".

The committee will want to clarify why Mr Entwistle did not ask about the nature of the Savile allegations – and answer criticism that he should have, as that was his job.

Other BBC journalists – including head of news Helen Boaden, her deputy Steve Mitchell and former director-general Mark Thompson, could also be forced to give evidence to the committee, it has emerged.

Scotland Yard's Yewtree investigation into Savile is following more than 400 lines of inquiry.