BBC staff face sex abuse inquiry
The BBC has revealed it is investigating nine allegations of “sexual harassment, assault or inappropriate conduct” among current staff and contributors as the fallout from the Jimmy Savile scandal continues.
The disclosure came after director general George Entwistle was urged to “get a grip” on his organisation during hostile questioning by British MPs about the broadcaster’s handling of claims of sexual abuse by the presenter over several decades.
Condemning the “broader cultural problem” at the BBC that had allowed Savile’s alleged behaviour to take place, he conceded the corporation had been slow to react to the emerging crisis.
And he expressed regret that Newsnight did not press ahead with an investigation last year that included interviews with some of the former star’s victims.
Newsnight editor Peter Rippon has stepped aside after a Panorama inquiry prompted to the BBC to say his explanation of why the show dropped its investigation into Savile was “inaccurate or incomplete”.
Mr Entwistle said the scandal raised questions of trust and reputation in the BBC.
He told MPs: “There’s no question that what Jimmy Savile did and the way the BBC behaved - the culture and practices of the BBC seemed to allow Jimmy Savile to do what he did – will raise questions of trust for us and reputation for us. There’s no question about that.
“It is a gravely serious matter and one cannot look back at it with anything but horror that his activities went on as long as they did undetected. Of course, that is a matter of grave regret to me.”
Mr Entwistle said the inquiry by Nick Pollard, former head of Sky News, into why the Newsnight investigation into Savile was dropped is expected to report back “in weeks”.
He admitted Mr Rippon’s blog account was “a matter of regret and embarrassment”.
Mr Entwistle told the committee he had ordered an internal audit of the operation of the BBC’s child protection policies and would report its results to the BBC Trust in December.
He said: “So far as I have been able to tell so far, Mr Savile prosecuted his disgusting activities in a manner that was very successfully and skilfully concealed.
“Experts in paedophile behaviour have pointed out that this is often the case... People build long-range plans to put them in contact with their targets. These things are institutionally, it seems, very difficult to deal with.”
The director-general told MPs he believed the Newsnight investigation into Savile should have continued and said there had been a “breakdown of communication” between Newsnight reporters and the editor and he did not feel “confident” that he could get an explanation over what happened from within the BBC.
Conservative MP Therese Coffey branded “chilling” an email sent by Mr Rippon last November that said “our sources so far are just the women” and questioned whether the culture had really changed at the BBC.