MPs to quiz BBC boss George Entwistle over Jimmy Savile affair
BBC boss George Entwistle will be quizzed about the corporation's handling of the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal by a committee of MPs today.
The Director-General faces the Culture, Media and Sport select committee a day after Newsnight editor Peter Rippon stepped aside after the BBC said his explanation of why the show dropped its investigation into Savile was "inaccurate or incomplete".
The committee is expected to quiz Mr Entwistle, who took up his post last month, about the two reviews into the case set up by the BBC, the corporations vetting procedures at the time it employed the late DJ and its existing policies on sexual harassment.
Mr Rippon has handed over control of the flagship current affairs show while the inquiry headed by Nick Pollard, the former head of Sky News, into how the BBC handled the scandal is carried out.
Earlier this month, he defended his decision to axe the report in a BBC blog but yesterday the corporation issued a correction.
He originally said there was no evidence staff at the Duncroft approved school could have known about allegations Savile abused children, but the BBC said: "In fact some allegations were made (mostly in general terms) that some of the Duncroft staff knew or may have known about the abuse."
Mr Rippon also said the women who spoke to Newsnight journalists had already spoken to police, but the BBC now says that is untrue and Newsnight actually uncovered new evidence about Savile's alleged crimes.
The corrected blogpost also said that while no allegations were made BBC staff "were aware" of Savile's behaviour, Newsnight did hear allegations of "abusive conduct on BBC premises".
A BBC spokesman said: "On the basis of material now available, it is apparent from information supplied by the Newsnight editor and programme team that the explanation by the editor in his blog of his decision to drop the programme's investigation is inaccurate or incomplete in some respects."
It comes after excerpts from last night's edition of Panorama highlighted the different explanations given by BBC bosses about the nature of the documentary and why it was dropped.
In the aftermath, BBC director-general George Entwistle wrote to all staff saying the Newsnight investigation was into "Surrey Police's inquiry into Jimmy Savile towards the end of 2011".
But producer Meirion Jones immediately emailed Mr Entwistle countering that, writing: "George - one note - the investigation was into whether Jimmy Savile was a paedophile - I know because it was my investigation.
"We didn't know that Surrey Police had investigated Jimmy Savile - no-one did - that was what we found when we investigated and interviewed his victims."
Mr Entwistle will also face questions about a reported conversation he had with BBC director of news Helen Boaden who told him - in his then role of director of vision - about the Newsnight investigation and its possible impact on planned tributes to Savile during an awards lunch on December 2.
She told him if the Newsnight investigation went ahead, he might have to change the Christmas schedules.
Last night's Panorama heard from Mr Jones and reporter Liz MacKean who both claim they interviewed at least four alleged victims of Savile - and confirmed with Surrey Police they had investigated sex abuse complaints against the Jim'll Fix It star in 2007.
They say when they told bosses the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) did not charge Savile because of insufficient evidence, they were told to end the investigation - and the show was withdrawn.
Last night it emerged that Surrey Police had found evidence of "three further potential offences" by Savile as a result of its investigation.
But a CPS spokeswoman said charges were not brought because in each case "the evidence showed that none of the alleged victims would support a prosecution".
The horror stories about Savile emerged only after ITV broadcast a documentary at the start of this month - sparking mayhem at the BBC over losing its scoop and leading to the allegations of a cover-up.
A Panorama statement said: "Peter Rippon has always maintained the story was pulled for 'editorial reasons' and not because of a potentially embarrassing clash with planned BBC tributes to Savile over Christmas.
"Panorama has found no evidence to contradict that view."
Mr Jones and Ms MacKean told programme-makers bosses wanted them to stand up a suggestion Savile was not prosecuted because the Crown Prosecution Service thought he was too old and frail.
When it emerged that was not true and he was not prosecuted because of insufficient evidence, the pair were told to abandon the investigation rather than get more proof, Panorama reports.
Ms MacKean said: "Ever since the decision was taken to shelve our story, I've not been happy with public statements made by the BBC.
"I think they're very misleading about the nature of the investigation we were doing."
Ms MacKean said Mr Rippon went cold on the story and she was left with the clear impression her editor was feeling under pressure, writing to a friend: "PR (Peter Rippon) says if the bosses aren't happy... (he) can't go to the wall on this one."
Ms MacKean told Panorama: "I was very unhappy the story didn't run because I felt we'd spoken to people who collectively deserved to be heard and they weren't heard and I thought that was a failing... I felt very much that I'd let them down."
Mr Jones emailed Mr Rippon five days later to warn him about what would happen if the investigation was dropped.
"I was sure the story would come out one way or another and that, if it did, the BBC would be accused of a cover-up," Mr Jones tells Panorama.
"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'."
According to The Daily Telegraph three emails sent by Ms MacKean expressing concerns about management interference to an unnamed friend were blocked by Panorama's lawyers from appearing in tonight's programme.
The newspaper claimed that publication was prevented because of the potential for legal action.
A Panorama spokesman said: "It is ridiculous to suggest in the circumstances that Panorama is not prepared to take BBC management to task."