Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage
BBC director general George Entwistle was accused of a “lamentable lack of editorial curiosity” as he appeared before a Parliamentary select committee this morning. The two-hour session focused on the scandal engulfing the broadcaster amid rampant sexual abuse allegations against late Top Of The Pops host Jimmy Savile, as well as suggestions of an editorial cover-up by the BBC’s leading investigative journalism program, Newsnight. Entwistle was faced with new pressure to explain why Newsnight‘s report on Savile was dropped last year, even though it delivered serious revelations about the allegations that had not previously been published. “There was clearly some good journalistic material,” he conceded today, adding, “Further investigation would have been appropriate.”
Entwistle left Newsnight editor Peter Rippon to shoulder much of the blame for dropping the December 2011 investigation into Savile. The BBC yesterday corrected Rippon’s version of events surrounding the story’s spiking, and Rippon was suspended pending the results of the BBC’s inquiry into the scandal. (Meanwhile, attorney Dinah Rose, who has acted on behalf of News International in civil phone-hacking claims, will be hired by the BBC to help on the Savile investigation, The Guardian reported.)
Entwistle today struggled to answer questions about editorial practices of the corporation and its safeguards to prevent sexual harassment by staff. “The BBC may look mystifying to outsiders, but the fact of last night’s Panorama is something everyone in the BBC should be incredibly proud of,” he said, referring to an episode of the BBC series Monday that explored the mounting controversy. “Here was the BBC investigating itself on its own TV channel, asking questions of itself no other media organization on Earth would do.”
Ahead of Entwistle’s testimony, the BBC issued a statement reiterating its intention to investigate the matters. It read in part: “The BBC is putting first and foremost the victims of Jimmy Savile’s abuse. That is why we have announced a Judge-led review with sweeping terms of reference to uncover exactly how this could have happened. BBC management will, furthermore, make themselves available to a second independent review that will seek to establish what exactly happened at Newsnight. This will be led by Nick Pollard, former head of Sky News.”
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