BBC Trust Asks BBC for Reassurances on Sexual Harrassment, Child Protection and Bullying Policies
LONDON – BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten said Wednesday he has written to newly-appointed BBC director general George Entwistle seeking reassurances that the public broadcaster has "up to date" policies to guard against incidents of bullying, sexual harassment and rules governing whistleblowers.
Patten's move comes on the back of what the BBC Trust chairman described as "the cesspool" of allegations of sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile, the late host of music charts show Top of the Pops and one of the BBC's shining star presenters for over 20 years.
Patten, answering a rigorous question and answer session about the Savile scandal at a Broadcast Press Guild lunch, said the aim would be for the BBC to have a "gold standard" when it came to such policy.
Patten said the BBC will appoint an outsider to head its independent inquiry into the Savile affair once the police have given the broadcaster the green light to process.
The Metropolitan police is currently running an investigation and is pursuing more than 100 lines of inquiry involving rape and sexual abuse surrounding Savile.
"The BBC has in place child protection policies and processes and have had. We've asked that they are up to date and effective and comply with best practices," Patten said.
He also said Entwistle, as editor in chief of the BBC, would be the man to appoint the independent inquiry probe leader or leaders.
Patten said it was "literally inconceivable" that the inquiry could be seen as anything other than independent.
While describing Savile as being "a pretty odd character," Patten noted his career had not crossed paths.
Entwistle promised an internal investigation of allegations of sexual abuse by Savile on BBC Radio 4's agenda setting news show Today.
Entwistle said that right now, the public broadcaster would focus on providing full co-operation in a police probe of the allegations, something Patten re-emphasized.
The debate surrounding Savile was kicked off by an ITV documentary that cited women saying that the late broadcaster sexually abused them and others as young girls. Some of the transgressions are alleged to have happened on BBC premises.
Savile, who died in Oct. 2011, was best known for his BBC TV show Jim'll Fix It as well as presenting Top of the Pops.
Patten also vehemently protected any question over the BBC's impartiality in reporting and resources.
Responding to questions on whether or not the decision by BBC flagship late evening news show Newsnight to drop an investigation into Savile in December last year, Patten said it was taken from a purely editorial decision.
"Whether that proves in retrospect to have been incorrect is separate but it was in no way prompted by wider corporate pressures or issues of embarrassment."
Patten cited a slew of stories broadcast by the BBC over the last few months that have caused the corporation "great embarrassment."
The BBC Trust is the broadcaster's governing body.