Thompson to be questioned again on Savile

The former director general of the BBC is being asked to clarify exactly what he knew when

Mark Thompson, the former BBC director general, is facing further questions about the Jimmy Savile scandal amid questions over his recollections of the affair.

John Whittingdale, the chairman of the House of Commons Culture Media and Sport Select Committee, is to write to Mr Thompson asking him to clarify when he first knew that Newsnight's investigation of Savile centred on claims of sexual abuse. This follows two explanations which fail to clarify the position of Mr Thompson, who left the BBC in September and is now chief executive of The New York Times.

In an interview with The Times on 24 October, Mr Thompson said that it had become apparent to him in December 2011 that Newsnight's Savile investigation was about allegations of sexual abuse, although he had been told no details. He said in the interview: "I may well have formed the impression … that it might relate to sexual abuse."

This newspaper has heard a tape recording of the interview. Mr Thompson states that he had become aware the investigation involved sex allegations of some kind a day or two after a party held on 20 December 2011 at which a journalist had asked about Newsnight's investigation being dropped. He said he was not told of any specific allegations, and did not recall any conversation which might have led him to believe the investigation was about sexual abuse.

The interview was published on 25 October but these words were not included in it at the request of Mr Thompson, who had "clarified" his position to The Times.

A month after his interview with The Times, Mr Thompson gave evidence to Nick Pollard, charged with finding out why Newsnight's investigation into Savile was axed. Mr Pollard's report, published last week, concluded: "Mr Thompson said that... he did not learn any specifics of the [Newsnight] investigation, and remained ignorant of the fact the investigation was into allegations of sexual abuse."

Yesterday Mr Whittingdale said: "I do intend to write to Mark Thompson. The Pollard report does not appear to deal with the question of to what extent Mark Thompson was previously aware of the Savile [Newsnight] programme.

"There are contradictions between what he has said and the evidence contained in the report and that is something which we [the media select committee] would want to hear more from him about."

On 23 October he told the Tory MP Rob Wilson that he "never heard any allegations" about Savile while he was director general. Spokesmen for Mr Thompson and Nick Pollard refused to comment yesterday.

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