Editorial: A necessary sacrifice

We should not allow the BBC’s shame to distract us from the important point

Share
Related Topics

The most important thing, as the BBC implodes from the top down, is to keep the focus on the suffering of people who were sexually assaulted as children, and whose testimony has been belittled or disbelieved for decades.

However, it is hard to ignore the BBC's impulsion to be the story rather than the messenger. By distracting public opinion from the pursuit of justice for the victims, the corporation has probably made it less likely that anyone will get to the bottom of what happened in a care home in North Wales, and in the many other cases of sexual assaults on vulnerable children.

What seems to have happened at the BBC is that, having dropped a report on Jimmy Savile, it sought to compensate for its error by pursuing the North Wales story with undue haste. The reasons the Newsnight report on Savile was never broadcast remain unclear. There were doubts about the strength of the testimony of the alleged victims, but the BBC has not yet escaped the suspicion that this investigation was embarrassing to it at a time when another part of the organisation was working on a tribute to the man.

What is extraordinary, though, is that George Entwistle, the Director General of the BBC, who has rightly stood down, had no idea Newsnight was working on the North Wales story. Despite his taking the heat for Savile within days of his appointment, he showed "an extraordinary lack of curiosity", in the words of John Wittingdale MP, chairman of the media select committee. He had no idea Newsnight was working with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Or that the bureau's reporter, Iain Overton, had suggested on Twitter that a "senior political figure who is a paedophile" would be named on the programme. Mr Overton and Phillip Schofield, the ITV presenter who handed a list of alleged paedophiles to the Prime Minister on live television, recklessly stirred speculation.

The "senior political figure" was not in fact named by Newsnight, but in a world of social media it was bound to come out. Which it did on Friday. Through all this Mr Entwistle seems to have been happily oblivious. He had no idea that there was a problem until Newsnight's witness, Steven Messham, issued an apology later on Friday for mis-identifying his abuser.

Even as we demand to know where Lord Patten, the chairman of the BBC Trust who appointed Mr Entwistle, has been, we should not allow the BBC's shame to distract us from the important point. The North Wales case, in particular, must be investigated as thoroughly as the passage of time will allow. There is no doubt at this newspaper that previous inquiries were inadequate. The Independent on Sunday investigated in the early 1990s, and today we report some of the shocking cases of the damage done by sexual and physical assaults on children in care homes years ago, but it needs the sort of response that the Home Secretary is now belatedly making.

The Government has done the right thing in setting up several new inquiries. These must start listening to the victims, assessing their evidence sympathetically but critically. Our first responsibility to the victims is to establish the truth. The BBC's greatest disservice is to make that more difficult. It has diverted the righteous anger of public opinion, which is needed to keep the Government to the mark. And, by embarrassing Mr Messham, it has made it harder for other victims, already terrified of testifying against their abusers, to come forward.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The power of anonymity lies in the freedom it grants

Boyd Tonkin
Rebel fighters walk in front of damaged buildings in Karam al-Jabal neighbourhood of Aleppo on August 26, 2014.  

The Isis threat must be confronted with clarity and determination

Ed Miliband
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone