Friday, October 12, 2012

Last night, after an inordinate delay, Newsnight finally bit the bullet and got round to reporting the Jimmy Savile affair.

Eddie Mair: On Newsnight tonight - why did the institutions that could have stopped him, fail to do so? In the studio, people who know the workings of the BBC, the tabloids and children's charities. .....

(from video report)
Liz MacKean: ... When rumours attach themselves to public figures the media are often the first to get wind of it. It's become clear that happened in this case and yet newspapers and broadcasters didn't run with the story. Why not? Several former BBC staff have come out to say they were aware of Savile's predatory behaviour in the 70's and 80's. The BBC has announced it will hold an independent inquiry into who knew what about their fallen star once the police give the green light. More recent decisions are also under scrutiny.

Liz MacKean: After Savile died, I was part of a Newsnight team that investigated claims of sexual abuse. The allegations centred on Duncroft School in Surrey, but they included Stoke Mandeville hospital and Television Centre. Newsnight decided not to run the story for editorial reasons. The BBC is under pressure to explain why the story was not broadcast, and whether any influence was brought to bear by senior executives ahead of the Christmas tribute programmes for Savile. ...

Guests in the Newsnight studio were Jon Brown of the NSPCC, newspaper journalist Paul Connew, Vanessa Feltz and Kevin Marsh former editor of Radio4's Today programme. Eddie Mair said that the BBC had declined to take part in the live discussion.

Incidentally I emailed Kevin Marsh at the BBC in 2006 about a completely unrelated matter, but received no reply.

The Newsnight discussion was fine as far as it went, but the elephant in the room was that Newsnight is in possession of all the relevant information, yet they failed to disclose any of it. The programme last night was a perfect opportunity to shed light on the rationale for not broadcasting their investigation late last year, and to disclose the internal debate which took place relating to the decision. But it seems the BBC has, once again, used its 'editorial judgement' and made the wrong decision. Failings of this kind are rapidly undermining trust in Britain's national broadcaster.

At the time of writing, Newsround has failed to mention anything about the Jimmy Savile controversy, though last year they were giving publicity to one of the BBC Savile tribute programmes and asked kids aged 14 or under to write in if they wanted to take part -

Classic TV show Jim'll Fix It comes back for Christmas

Peter Rippon's BBC blog on 2nd October 2012

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