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BBC Pollard Report

December 19, 2012 by  

BBC Pollard Report, George Entwistle, the former BBC Director-General, did not heed warnings in emails alerting him that Jimmy Savile had a “dark side” before going ahead with tribute programmes, a damning review into the BBC’s failure to pursue abuse allegations against the star has found.

The senior Newsnight editorial team will be replaced following the Pollard report, which exposed an atmosphere of meltdown and disarray inside the BBC as the scandal, which claimed Entwistle, developed.

Helen Boaden, the corporation’s head of news, and other executives are also criticised in the review.

Lord Patten, BBC Trust chairman, promised a root-and-branch reform of the “chaotic” management culture at the BBC, following criticisms made by Nick Pollard, a former head of Sky News, into the failings which prompted a crisis of trust in BBC journalism.

Pollard found that the BBC demonstrated a “complete inability to deal with the events that followed” after it emerged that Peter Rippon, the Newsnight editor had quashed an investigation into the BBC entertainer which included interviews with a number of women who had come forward with abuse stories.

George Entwistle had been warned that Jimmy Savile had a “darker side” but still proceeded with Christmas tribute programmes after his death, the review has discovered.

Entwistle had been sent an email by a senior commissioning executive before Savile’s death when the star was seriously ill, saying the BBC had no obituary programme prepared and alerting him to Savile’s “conflicting nature”. But Entwistle “did not believe that it was sent in an effort to warn him,” Pollard found.

Nick Vaughan-Barratt, BBC Controller of Knowledge Commissioning, wrote an email to Entwistle saying he had worked with Savile for many years and said he felt “v queasy about an obit. I saw the real truth!!!” since the presenter was a “flawed” individual.

A second executive, Jan Younghusband, also emailed Entwistle advising against an obituary programme referring again to his “darker side”.

Pollard found that if Entwistle had read the email, and spoken to other executives, “it would have given some pause for thought about running the planned tributes.”

Observers compared revelation to the phone-hacking scandal which engulfed News International, where James Murdoch claimed not to have read all of an email containing vital information about wrongdoing.

The emails alluded to “rumours” about Savile’s “weird” personality and behaviour surrounding his charitable causes but no-one at that time had evidence that he was involved in sexual abuse.

The “level of chaos and confusion was even greater than was apparent at the time,” Pollard concluded after examining a thousand emails and conducting extensive interviews with BBC executives and reporters involved in the Newsnight story.

However he did not find that undue corporate pressure was placed on Rippon to drop the story. The “decision was flawed and the way it was taken was wrong but I believe it was done in good faith,” he wrote.

Helen Boaden had briefly alerted George Entwistle, then BBC head of television, that a Savile investigation was underway, at a lunch. This was “inappropriate”, “too casual, too fleeting and left much uncertainty about the outcome.”

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