Den nye BBC-sjefen George Entwistle kan miste jobben bare en måned etter tiltredelse. Panorama vil ikveld vise at det var trykk ovenfra som førte til at et Newsnight-program om Jimmy Saviles pedofili ble trukket tilbake. Entwistle hadde den gang ansvar for et jubileumsprogram om Savile som ville blitt spolert hvis han ble avslørt som pedofil.
Skandalen har således gått over fra å være historien om en popstjerne som utnyttet sin status til å være overgriper, til å bli en skandale om BBC. Flere kilder sier at hvis historien om at Newsnight ble stanset etter press ovenfra, så henger Entwistles lederstilling i en tynn tråd.
George Entwistle, the BBC director-general, will be accused by his own journalists of misleading the public about his role in the scandal.
An hour-long Panorama special, featuring newly disclosed emails and interviews, will raise serious questions about Mr Entwistle’s role in the decision to drop a Newsnight exposé of Savile.
It will also question the veracity of public statements that he and other senior BBC bosses have made in recent days about why it was shelved.
The documentary, Jimmy Savile — What the BBC Knew, will disclose that Mr Entwistle was told he “might have to change the Christmas schedules” if the Newsnight film went ahead because it would clash with tribute programmes to Savile.
Mr Entwistle has insisted that he played no part in the decision to cut the Newsnight film, but Panorama will claim that Peter Rippon, the editor of Newsnight, said he could not broadcast the film “if the bosses aren’t happy”.
Emails obtained by the programme appear to add further weight to suspicions that some of the BBC’s most senior executives decided that the Savile investigation should be dropped to spare the corporation embarrassment.
It puts Mr Entwistle’s future in doubt just a month after he became director-general and leaves him with questions to answer about the affair when he faces MPs tomorrow. Greg Dyke, the former director-general, said yesterday that if a senior executive had told the Newsnight team to call off their investigation “I don’t think that person can survive”.
John Simpson, the BBC’s world affairs editor, described the scandal as “the worst crisis” at the corporation for at least 50 years and suggested the broadcaster was risking losing the trust of licence-fee payers because of its handling of the affair. Panorama will also reveal that:
• The Newsnight team was investigating the extent of Savile’s paedophilia, rather than the reasons police failed to prosecute him in 2007, as had previously been claimed;
• Mr Rippon told his reporters to “stop working on the story” despite the team having spoken to five women who claimed they were abused by Savile;
• Meirion Jones, the Newsnight producer and one of the key journalists in its Savile investigation, warned Mr Rippon of “substantial damage to the BBC’s reputation” if he pulled the film;
• Savile had indicated in the 1970s to Bob Langley, a former Nationwide reporter, that he had just had sex with underage girls in his caravan, but Mr Langley failed to report it because he thought no one would believe him.
When news broke in February that the BBC had pulled the Newsnight film, the corporation insisted that the decision had been made for “editorial reasons” by Mr Rippon without any influence from above.
But Panorama will broadcast evidence which suggests the Newsnight investigation was dropped because it would have clashed with tribute programmes broadcast last December.
One source told The Daily Telegraph: “It will be categorically clear that this was not killed on journalistic grounds. The Newsnight team had the whole story all ready to run and it was then killed for whatever reason, but not editorial grounds.”
The programme will reveal that on Dec 2 last year, just days before the film was scheduled for broadcast, Mr Entwistle, who was at the time director of BBC Vision, was briefed on the Newsnight investigation by Helen Boaden, head of BBC News.
During an awards lunch at the Hilton Hotel in London, she told Mr Entwisle, who was responsible for a proposed tribute programme to Savile called How’s About That Then?, that if the Newsnight film was aired the Christmas schedules would have to be changed.
The conversation is said to have lasted “less than 10 seconds” but the disclosure appears to cast serious doubt on Mr Entwistle’s public statements that he was aware only that Newsnight was investigating Savile and not what the nature of the investigation was.
Man kan knapt tenke seg en større og mer ødeleggende skandale: først springer nyheten om at et ikonisk pop-ikon var en systematisk og hensynsløs overgriper. Spørsmålet som stilles er: hvordan kunne det pågå så lenge? Noen må ha visst. BBCs egen Newsnight arbeidet med å avdekke omfanget av overgrepene. Programmet skulle vært sendt i desember i fjor, men ble stanset, offisielt fordi politiet ikke gikk videre med etterforskningen. Hvis det viser seg at det var etter trykk ovenfra, kan de som utøvde press umulig overleve.
BCC har lenge blitt kritisert for å være en maktfull institusjon som er politisk tendensiøs og uimottakelige for selvkritikk. Denne skandalen rommer flere elementer som rammer 68-‘erkulturen: et pop-ikon var hevet over mistanke. Selv om småjenter svermet om idolene var det ingen som tenkte tanken, eller, om de gjorde det, gjorde noe med det. Når så skandalen avsløres, griper sjefer inn for å stanse avsløringene. Da er skandalen komplett, og man må stille spørsmålet om det er noe galt med selve institusjonen.
Entwistle må svare for seg til parlamentskomiteen tirsdag:
on Sunday night John Whittingdale, the chairman of the culture and media select committee, told The Daily Telegraph that questions over the decision not to broadcast the Newsnight exposé were now “much more serious for the BBC”.
“It leaves huge questions that need to be answered, which my committee will wish to put to the director-general on Tuesday morning,” he said.