Monday, November 23, 2020

THE WORST SCANDAL IN BBC’S HISTORY?

October 22, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Britain’s venerable BBC has been plunged into what its veteran foreign correspondent John Simpson has called “the worst crisis that I can remember in my nearly 50 years at the BBC.” Simpson makes the comment in a report due to air tonight (Monday) on the BBC’s late-night investigation program Panorama concerning allegations that editors and BBC executives spiked a report prepared last year for another BBC program, Newsnight, alleging that the late Jimmy Savile, one of the network’s most celebrated hosts, abused children who visited him in his dressing room and at a charitable boarding school for girls. (British police said on Friday that it is “dealing with alleged abuse on an unprecedented scale” by Savile, involving as many as 200 victims.) The Panorama program, which examines the circumstances under which the Newsnight report was quashed, is being aired days after the weekend resignation of Peter Rippon, Newsnight‘s editor, and one day ahead of the scheduled testimony of the new BBC director general, George Entwistle, before a Parliamentary committee looking into the scandal. The Panorama report includes the disclosure of seemingly incriminating emails in which Newsnight reporter Liz MacKean expressed frustration last November over Rippon’s reluctance to air the report. “He says if the bosses aren’t happy … [he] can’t go to the wall on this one,” she remarked in one email. BBC bosses at the time were planning to air a “tribute” to Savile, who had died the previous month at the age of 84. Newsnight producer Meirion Jones, who worked on the report with MacKean, also appears in the Panorama report and says that he warned Rippon that if it was suppressed, “the BBC would be accused of a cover-up. In fact I wrote an email to Peter saying ‘the story is strong enough’ and the danger of not running it is ‘substantial damage to BBC reputation.'” MacKean goes on to say, “I’ve not been happy with the public statements made by the BBC [about axing the report]. I think they’re very misleading about the nature of the investigation we were doing.” The publicly-supported broadcaster issued a statement declining comment on the findings of its own program. “The BBC has confirmed it has launched an independent review led by former head of Sky News, Nick Pollard, which will cover these questions. It would not be appropriate to comment further until this has been concluded,” it said. But the seriousness of the allegations were underlined by foreign correspondent Simpson, who says on the Panorama broadcast, “All we have as an organization is the trust of the people, the people that watch us and listen to us, and if we don’t have that, if we start to lose that, that’s very dangerous I think for the BBC.”