Jimmy Savile: George Entwistle's evidence - key extracts
- 23 October 2012
- From the section UK
The BBC director general George Entwistle has given evidence to MPs about the Newsnight investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile.
In two hours before the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, Mr Entwistle was questioned about the culture of the BBC, how the Newsnight report came to be dropped and the editorial chain of command.
Here are key points from his evidence.
Mr Entwistle began his evidence by saying that the way the past "culture and practices of the BBC seems to allow Jimmy Savile to do what he did, will raise questions of trust for us and reputation for us,".
It is "a gravely serious matter and one cannot look back at it with anything other than horror," he told the MPs of the Culture Select Committee, adding that he was determined to "do everything we can to put [it] right".
CULTURE AT THE BBC
Answering a question which referenced other allegations of sexual harrassment at the corporation, Mr Entwistle said he was convinced there had been "a problem of culture within the BBC".
He said that this was why one of the three BBC inquiries, led by former High Court judge Dame Janet Smith, would examine the culture of the BBC during the years that Jimmy Savile worked there.
Dame Janet will begin her review after the former Head of Sky News Nick Pollard carries out his inquiry into why the Newsnight investigation was shelved.
Mr Entwistle explained how staff can currently report sexual harassment allegations but could not say how many complaints there had been in recent years.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT ALLEGATIONS
Questioned again on the subject a little later, Mr Entwistle said the BBC was currently investigating "historical" complaints of sexual abuse or harassment against 8-10 past and present individuals.
He was criticised by MPs for not knowing exactly how many allegations had been made against staff.
But he insisted any complaints would be thoroughly investigated and, if necessary, referred to the police.
The BBC later issued a statement, saying: "We are currently aware of nine allegations of sexual harassment, assault or inappropriate conduct regarding current staff or contributors".
INVESTIGATION 'SHOULD HAVE CONTINUED'
Mr Entwistle said having seen Panorama, he thought the decision made by Newsnight editor Peter Rippon to drop the investigation into Savile had been wrong.
He was then asked about changes in the BBC's version of how the report came to be dropped.
In a blog published on 2 October 2012, Mr Rippon said he took the decision not to publish because "we had not established any institutional failure".
But there was a "difference of opinion" among journalists on the story and a "breakdown in communication at Newsnight" said Mr Entwistle.
HELEN BOADEN CONVERSATION
Mr Entwistle was asked about a brief conversation with BBC director of news Helen Boaden last December over the possibility of Newsnight running a report on Savile, while Mr Entwistle, as then director of BBC Vision, was planning a tribute piece to the presenter on Boxing Day.
"The key message I took away was that it wasn't yet clear to Helen whether it was going to stand up or not," he said.
"We never spoke about it again from which I inferred that the decision had been made not to proceed with it."
He added: "I wouldn't have had any qualms about making any changes we needed to make to the Christmas schedule."
'I DON'T BELIEVE I DID FAIL'
Mr Entwistle said that after that brief discussion with Helen Boaden about the Newsnight programme, he said he had not made any further inquiries - but with hindsight he now regretted going ahead with the Savile tribute programme.
He said it was important that as the then director of vision, he was not interfering with the news agenda.
He added: "I don't believe I did fail... the system as a whole doesn't seem to have got this right."
'LACK OF CURIOSITY'
The committee accused Mr Entwistle of displaying an amazing "lack of curiosity" about the Jimmy Savile investigation when he again insisted he had not asked anything about the content of the programme.
MPs also wanted to know who else within the corporation had been aware of the investigation. Mr Entwistle confirmed that the Newsnight editor had had conversations with his immediate boss, the head of news programmes Stephen Mitchell, as well as head of news, Helen Boaden.
Within the BBC he said, editors were given control of their own programmes - but could refer up when there were difficult editorial decisions to be made.
RIPPON ASKED TO STEP ASIDE
The director general said he wanted to make clear that Newsnight editor Peter Rippon had been asked to 'step aside' because of inaccuracies in his blog.
This appeared to contradict an earlier statement issued by the BBC press office which said Mr Rippon had been asked to step aside while the review by Nick Pollard, the former head of Sky News, into the management of Newsnight's investigation, was carried out.
It said Mr Rippon's blog had been "inaccurate and incomplete in some respects".