BBC Newsnight editor steps aside over Savile

Monday 22 October 2012 23.47
So far, 200 potential victims of abuse have come forward
So far, 200 potential victims of abuse have come forward

BBC Newsnight editor Peter Rippon has stepped aside "with immediate effect" while the BBC reviews its response to the Jimmy Savile sex scandal, the corporation said today.

The BBC said his explanation in a blog post as to why the show dropped its investigation into the late DJ and TV presenter was "inaccurate or incomplete in some respects".

It has corrected his statement, saying: "The BBC regrets these errors and will work with the Pollard Review to assemble all relevant evidence to enable the review to determine the full facts."

Former head of Sky News Nick Pollard is to carry out the review into the management of Newsnight's investigation.

The BBC tonight showed a Panorama special examining Newsnight's decision to drop an investigation into child sex abuse claims against Savile.

The programme revealed new evidence of what the BBC knew about the decades of child abuse carried out by Savile.

It also reveals details of email exchanges with the Newsnight team over why its investigation was shelved last year.

So far, 200 potential victims of abuse have come forward.

BBC foreign editor John Simpson has described the scandal as "the worst crisis that I can remember in my nearly 50 years at the BBC".

Mr Rippon maintains the piece, which was due to run last December, was pulled for editorial reasons, and not because the potentially damaging revelations coincided with a planned tribute to the broadcaster.

But tonight's hour-long documentary heard from Newsnight producer Meirion Jones and reporter Liz MacKean, who both claim they had interviewed at least four alleged victims of Savile - and confirmed with Surrey Police that they had investigated sex abuse complaints against the Jim'll Fix It presenter in 2007.

They say that when they told bosses the Crown Prosecution Service did not charge Savile because of insufficient evidence, they were told to end the investigation, and the show was withdrawn.

The horror stories about Savile only fully emerged 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.

Panorama 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 Mr Savile over Christmas.

"Panorama has found no evidence to contradict that view."

Mr Simpson said of the fallout: "I don't think the BBC has handled it terribly well.

"I mean I think it's better to just come out right at the start and say we're going to open everything up and then we're going to show everybody everything.

"All we have as an organisation 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."