Jimmy Savile Scandal: BBC Criticism Dominates U.K. Media Agenda
The slamming of BBC management by an independent report pushes the public broadcaster to the front of newspaper websites, other broadcaster's news bulletins and is talked up by the BBC itself.
LONDON – The coruscating criticism of BBC bosses in Nick Pollard's 185-page report of an independent review into the handling of and fall out from the decision to ax a Newsnight investigation into child sexual abuse by the late presenter Jimmy Savile dominated U.K. media agenda Wednesday.
The report published by the BBC Trust Wednesday after it was commissioned earlier this year pulled no punches when it came to criticizing the public broadcaster describing it as "completely incapable" of dealing with the Savile affair.
The publication of the report and the subsequent press conference at BBC HQ in central London was deemed important enough for The Guardian to set up a live blog yesterday to cover the event.
The politically left-leaning newspaper, considered one of the agenda setters for media debate, ran an initial story, separate to the live blog, under the headline "BBC incapable of dealing with Savile affair."
The paper then broke out a story from the main body of the report about the former director general George Entwistle's claims he did not read emails from two senior colleagues hinting at Savile's dark side.
The Telegraph, traditionally a newspaper with a more right wing political standpoint, trumpeted the BBC's failings under the banner "BBC accused of multiple failings but executives keep jobs."
The paper highlighted that no one was to lose their BBC job despite the report's unforgiving portrayal of the broadcaster's senior managers.
While noting some would move to other roles within the broadcaster, the newspaper also pointed to the fact that Helen Boaden, the BBC's head of news criticized for the "casual" way in which she mentioned the Newsnight investigation into Savile to Entwistle, the then head of BBC Vision, "keeps her job and will be back at her desk tomorrow."
Entwistle resigned after just 54 days in office as BBC director general amid a widening scandal at the BBC just after ordering the review that Pollard ultimately carried out.
The Independent, a newspaper that aims to live up to its name with no political allegiance, also trumpeted the dark side-of-Savile angle.
Under the headline of the front page of its website,"BBC boss George Entwistle ignored warnings of Jimmy Savile's 'dark side'," the report also heralded the fact that the Newsnight editorial team will be replaced as a result of the "damning review, which exposed an atmosphere of meltdown and disarray inside the BBC."
The Sun tabloid, owned and published by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. publishing division News International, dished up its tabloid take on Pollard's report.
"George Entwistle WAS warned of Jimmy Savile's ‘darker side’," The Sun web page headline read.
"Pollard review makes damning revelations and uncovers plot to ‘protect’ former Director-General," The Sun screamed.
Fellow redtop tabloid and arch rival The Mirror ran the story under the less inflammatory headline: "Decision to drop Newsnight report into Jimmy Savile sex abuse was 'flawed' and plunged BBC into 'chaos'."
Over at News Corp.'s The Times, a story ran below the headline "BBC editors replaced over Newsnight failings" noting the public broadcaster's decision to re-assign several senior journalists.
And broadcast bulletins from ITV News and Channel 4 pushed the story up their news agendas for the day.
ITV News carried an item about BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten consulting with lawyers about whether or not the BBC could claim some of Entwistle's $650,000-plus golden goodbye back in light of the publication of Pollard's report and Wednesday's second report – published by the editorial standards committee of the BBC Trust – examining the circumstances around the misidentification of British politician Lord McAlpine wrongly implicating him in a scandal about alleged abuse of children at care homes in Wales in a separate Newsnight report.
Channel 4 News website ran the story under the sober headline "BBC Newsnight inquiry finds Savile decision was 'flawed'."
The BBC News channel 24 chose to run with the story from noon yesterday, a time which clashed with prime minister's question time in the Houses of Parliament, pushing it to the very top of its lunchtime news agenda.
Media observers point to the fact it is hardly surprising that newspapers and other media outlets would trumpet a story about BBC failings given the public broadcaster's extensive coverage of the Leveson inquiry into media ethics, which gave them a forensic going-over for more than a year.
The British government set up Leveson after the phone hacking scandal engulfed News Corp. and led to the closure of the News of the World tabloid.
The fallout will run for a while longer as the Pollard review, which cost over $3.5 million dollars, was paid for by BBC license fee payers.