BBC Savile inquiry report at a glance
- 19 December 2012
- From the section UK
An inquiry into Newsnight's shelving of a report on sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile has published its findings.
Findings have also been announced in relation to a Newsnight report that led to Lord McAlpine being wrongly implicated in child abuse allegations.
- No evidence of a cover-up of Newsnight's Savile investigation
- The decision to drop Savile investigation was flawed
- The editor and deputy editor of Newsnight are to be replaced
- Head of BBC News to return to her post
Report by former Sky News executive Nick Pollard into the dropped Newsnight investigation on allegations of sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile.
- No evidence of a cover-up
"The decision to drop the original investigation was flawed and the way it was taken was wrong but I believe it was done in good faith. It was not done to protect the Savile tribute programmes or for any improper reason."
- Criticism of the BBC's management system
"When the full force of the affair broke in October 2012, the BBC's management system proved completely incapable of dealing with it. This report shows that the level of chaos and confusion was even greater than was apparent at the time... beyond the combined efforts of the senior management, legal department, corporate communications team."
"Efforts were hampered in part by an apparent adherence to rigid management chains and a reluctance to bypass them."
- Disastrous chain of events
"It led to one of the worst management crises in the BBC's history and contributed to further chaos that led to the resignation of the director general a few weeks later."
- Tribute programmes questioned
"I have seen no evidence that anyone involved in the making of the tribute programmes knew of any allegations against or rumours about Savile. Were there nonetheless opportunities to discover these and to evaluate whether or not the programmes should have been commissioned, produced, or ultimately broadcast? In my view there were."
- Savile's darker side?
The report found an email was sent by an executive to future director general George Entwistle - when he was head of BBC Vision - and to Danny Cohen, the controller of BBC1, alerting them to the potential of a "darker side" to Jimmy Savile but neither read the message
"Mr Entwistle said that he did not read the email... and he does not believe it was sent in an effort to warn him... I do not regard that email as a 'smoking gun' but it indicates to me that there was knowledge, not just rumour, within BBC Vision about the unsavoury side of Savile's character at the time the Christmas tribute programmes were planned. If either email had been read it was at least possible that further questions would have followed."
- Notifying police
"The BBC needs to look again at its practices for handing material to the police. The Newsnight Savile investigation produced an extremely unusual issue - a story that was not deemed convincing enough for broadcast yet included material that the police should have been given. It is unlikely such a situation will occur often but the wider issue about how and when material should be handed to the police needs to be considered."
- Decision to drop story
"[Peter] Rippon's decision to drop the Savile story was seriously flawed: he made a bad mistake in not examining the evidence properly."
- Chaotic blog response
"The preparation of the blog can only be described as chaotic. The impression given is of no particular individual being in control of and responsible for that process who was charged with ensuring that the document produced was precise and accurate."
- Paxman questions
"Within an hour of the blog being published, Jeremy Paxman, a senior presenter on Newsnight, emailed Mr Rippon to say that the blog 'doesn't answer all of the accusations laid against us...
"The email exchange continued with Mr Paxman suggesting that the decision not to run the Savile investigation 'must have been a corporate decision (whatever your blog says)', to which Mr Rippon replied: 'It wasn't corporate honestly. I guess I may be guilty of self-censorship. In the end I just felt what we had … Forty year old contestable claims about a dead guy was not a NN story and not worth the fuss'".
- Recommendations on future editorial structure
"The BBC's news and editorial management needs to be reviewed. That is a key job for the acting and designate directors general. It is certainly not the case that everything in BBC News management needs repair."
"Several witnesses... told us they believed the Savile affair - and in particular the BBC's poor handling of it after the investigation was halted - would not have happened (or at least would not have been so damaging) if the role of deputy director general... had still been in existence."
"BBC News depends on delegated editorial authority and in an organisation of such size that is inevitable and appropriate. However, there needs to be an effective way of dealing with problems when they arise. It is clear to me that in the Savile case that did not happen. This problem needs to be recognised and addressed."
"The BBC needs to decide what their blogs are for, particularly editor's blogs. Are they a true journalistic outlet, in which case they must meet BBC editorial standards and the press office should not be involved with them."
BBC Trust Editorial Standards Committee report into Newsnight
Report features the findings of the BBC Trust's Editorial Standards Committee into a Newsnight programme on 2 November 2012 which led to Lord McAlpine being wrongly identified online as an abuser. Also includes the conclusions of Ken MacQuarrie, director of BBC Scotland, who carried out an investigation into the programme, and a response from the executive board that manages the BBC.
- Most serious breach of accuracy guidelines
"The combination of the Newsnight Report and the online speculation had led to Lord McAlpine being incorrectly identified as... [an] abuser."
"Failures by members of the Newsnight team resulted largely from a failure to adhere to the editorial guidelines."
"As a result of the inaccuracy, the audience had been misled."
- Basic journalistic checks overlooked
"The BBC appears to have made inadequate attempts to seek validation for the story beyond what the reporter delivered."
"Newsnight, aware the freelance reporter had interviewed the same interviewee for two previous BBC broadcasts, did not ask for fresh checks to be carried out."
"The Executive cannot explain why a photograph of Lord McAlpine was not shown to the key interviewee prior to transmission. The freelance reporter [Angus Stickler] accepts that this was a terrible mistake."
"Newsnight was aware of online reports that stated the political figure at the centre of the row strongly denied the allegations. Despite this, no action was taken to contact Lord McAlpine.... Some individuals recollect this decision as being informed by legal advice, however, the lawyer does not recall this issue being discussed with him and in any event would have regarded it as a matter that should be addressed."
"Colleagues in BBC Wales had been alerted to the possibility of a significant story about their patch, the doubts about the credibility of his evidence could have been flushed out before any broadcast."
"Programme-makers were aware of suggestions online that Newsnight would 'bottle it again', and that concern about possible 'reputational damage' in that event 'played too large a part' in the decision to proceed with the broadcast."
- Social media risks
"The BBC report combined with social media made jigsaw identification possible. This is what led to the naming of Lord McAlpine... However, we should note that case law here is only emerging alongside the social media revolution, that the participants believed that by not naming the political figure on the BBC they were within the area of acceptable risk, and that they took this view in the light of conscientiously-given legal advice."
"This failure occurred in the wake of the decision by Newsnight not to run an investigation into Jimmy Savile... That decision had led to considerable changes in the accountability structure both within Newsnight and beyond. Those changes - as well as changes of personnel within the programme - appear to have contributed to a situation whereby there was a lack of clarity concerning who had overall editorial responsibility."
"The Trustees noted that in normal circumstances they would direct the BBC to make an on-air apology. However, an apology has already been made on air and in court."
"This has been a grave breach which had been costly to all concerned. The Trustees wish to put on record an apology to Lord McAlpine and to the public for this serious failure of BBC journalism."
Changes at the BBC
- The findings have led to changes among senior BBC managers
- The editor and deputy editor of Newsnight are to be replaced and three members of staff face disciplinary proceedings over the Lord McAlpine story
- Head of BBC News Helen Boaden, who had stepped aside during the inquiry, will return to her post on Thursday
- Deputy director of news Stephen Mitchell will leave the BBC next year
- Adrian Van Klaveren, controller of BBC's 5 live who was brought in to oversee any Savile-related stories, will move from that post to a new role to be announced in the new year
- Newsnight deputy editor Liz Gibbons will move to a new role.