Newsnight editor was 'out of his depth', BBC was told
Jeremy Paxman and others at Newsnight had voiced fears before the Jimmy Savile farrago
Senior Newsnight staff, including the anchorman Jeremy Paxman and others, repeatedly asked BBC management to sack the programme's editor Peter Rippon months into his editorship, saying he "was out of his depth".
Helen Boaden, head of news, was told Mr Rippon should go by several senior staff at the corporation's flagship programme with one source claiming Ms Boaden also had "severe doubts" about his tenure as early as 2010. Mr Rippon himself asked to leave the post, as The IoS revealed last year, was advised by management to go for another job but was refused, and asked on a separate occasion for sabbatical leave.
The allegations have left some questioning why Ms Boaden remained impotent over Mr Rippon's position, with Newsnight staff claiming she was "uninterested" and "ineffectual" long before the fallout from the programme's botched handling of the Jimmy Savile investigation sparked the biggest BBC crisis since the Hutton inquiry a decade ago.
"From about six months in I told Helen that Peter really was not up to it," a senior BBC insider said yesterday. "He was completely out of his depth. She had no interest in that.
"Peter had said to Helen Boaden that he couldn't hack it and wanted to move. When the editorship of the news channel became available he was requested to apply for it. He did apply for it and then they didn't give him the job, which tells you all you need to know about BBC management."
In Ms Boaden's testimony to the Pollard inquiry, released on Friday, heavily redacted documents point to presenters having conversations about Mr Rippon. In one exchange Nick Pollard says: "NAME REDACTED was never off the phone or emailing you to tell you that Peter wasn't up to it." Ms Boaden replies: "No, that is a gross exaggeration. I probably had three conversations with NAME REDACTED about it." It is understood that the redacted name was Mr Paxman – who also told Mr Pollard that Mr Rippon was made a scapegoat for management failings.
Ms Boaden has also been criticised for branding Newsnight, which fell under her managerial control, as "colonial". She told Mr Pollard: "Newsnight has been a troubled programme for some time. It is a bit like an old colonial power with a lot of old attitudes."
The source said: "She always came across as nice but she had no interest in the programme. That was the most galling thing. She never once said 'that was good, that was bad'. Throughout this whole thing not a single person has been fired. That is amazing."
Another source said: "I told Helen Boaden about Peter Rippon several times, as did others. Helen was never interested; she was so ineffectual. Helen had severe doubts about him in 2010 but did nothing. She did not want to do anything with it because she wanted to become director general."
A BBC spokesman said: "The BBC has accepted Nick Pollard's report and its findings. We have now published all of the background material for his report. We have nothing further to add." Ms Boaden referred callers to the BBC press office and hung up.
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