Rippon quits over Savile scandal
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 as to why the show dropped its investigation into the late DJ and TV presenter was “inaccurate or incomplete in some respects” and has corrected his statement.
It said: “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.
“In addition, the BBC has announced that Peter Rippon is stepping aside with immediate effect from his post while the review by Nick Pollard, the former head of Sky News, into the management of Newsnight’s investigation, is carried out.”
Mr Rippon’s initial explanation was published on a BBC blog and said there was no evidence that staff at the Duncroft approved school could have known about allegations that Savile abused children.
The correction now states: “In fact some allegations were made (mostly in general terms) that some of the Duncroft staff knew or may have known about the abuse.”
It adds: “The blog says that all the women spoken to by the programme had contacted the police independently already and that Newsnight had no new evidence against any other person that would have helped the police. It appears that in some cases women had not spoken to the police and that the police were not aware of all the allegations.”
The corrected blogpost also said that while no allegations were made that BBC staff “were aware” of Savile’s behaviour, it did hear allegations of “abusive conduct on BBC premises”.
The BBC Trust, the corporation’s governing body, said it was “deeply concerning that there have been inaccuracies in the BBC’s own description of what happened in relation to the Newsnight investigation”.
It comes after excerpts from tonight’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 that 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.”
Tonight’s hour-long documentary, which goes out on BBC1 at 10.35pm, will hear from Mr Jones and reporter Liz MacKean, who both claim they 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 star 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 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.