BBC Trust Chairman Defends Public Broadcaster Amid Sexual Abuse Scandal Probes

Lord Patten writes to British culture secretary Maria Miller to warn her against questioning the BBC's independence.

LONDON - BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten has sent a letter to culture secretary Maria Miller defending the public broadcaster's independence amid sexual abuse allegations against late TV host Jimmy Savile.

Patten's letter followed the appearance of BBC director general George Entwistle in front of government ministers Tuesday to answer questions as the debate about the role of various executives in a dropped BBC TV report about the allegations continues.

The culture secretary urged Patten to become more personally involved, because "very real concerns are being raised about public trust and confidence in the BBC," according to British media reports. The BBC Trust is the public broadcaster's governing body.

Patten, in his letter to Miller, noted her concerns. "I know that you will not want to give any impression that you are questioning the independence of the BBC," he said though. "Of course I will keep you in touch with developments."

According to the Guardian, Patten's letter also said: "You know how seriously the Trust takes the allegations surrounding Jimmy Savile and the need to maintain public trust in the BBC."

Earlier this month, Patten had said it makes him "very cross" when the BBC's impartiality and quality of journalism is questioned.

The broadcaster has launched two internal probes - one into the kind of work environment the BBC provides and possible factors that allowed Savile's behavior, the other into a decision by flagship news show Newsnight to drop a planned report on the abuse allegations.