Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

BBC chief rejects Savile charges

Jimmy Savile

BBC director general George Entwistle has insisted he did not accept charges that the Corporation handled allegations against former presenter Jimmy Savile badly.

Mr Entwistle appeared before a committee of MPs to answer questions about allegations of sexual abuse by Savile over several decades, and about the decision not to broadcast a Newsnight investigation including interviews with his alleged victims last year.

He told the House of Commons culture media and sport committee that Savile's activities were "a very, very grave matter indeed", and said that when the scale and credibility of the allegations came to light, thanks to an ITV investigation, he immediately personally contacted the police.

Committee chairman John Whittingdale told Mr Entwistle that the BBC's handling of the affair "is raising very serious questions about potential suppression to avoid embarrassment", and asked him: "Would you accept that this has not been handled well by the BBC in the last few weeks?"

The director general replied: "No, I wouldn't accept that. I would accept that there have been times when we have taken longer to do things than in a perfect world I would have liked.

"But I think if you looked at what we have achieved since the scale of the crisis became clear, I think you see we have done much of what we should have done and done it in the right order and with proper respect paid to the right authorities."

Mr Entwistle was also facing criticism over the decision not to broadcast a Newsnight investigation including interviews with Savile's victims last year. His appearance before the committee came the morning after the BBC's Panorama programme broadcast an investigation into Savile and into the decision to ditch the Newsnight film.

Mr Entwistle said he regretted the decision to broadcast tribute programmes to Savile after his death.

He was told by BBC director of news Helen Boaden about the Newsnight investigation and its possible impact on planned tributes to Savile during an awards lunch on December 2.

She told Mr Entwistle, who was then director of vision, that if the Newsnight investigation went ahead, he might have to change the Christmas schedules. Asked whether he regretted the decision to broadcast the tributes, Mr Entwistle told MPs: "In the light of what's happening, of course I do."

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