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Report blames chaos, not cover-up, for BBC scandal

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LONDON (AP) — Institutional chaos and confusion — but not a cover-up — were to blame for the BBC's disastrous handling of pedophilia allegations involving one of its best-known children's television personalities, an internal review found Wednesday.

The review absolved BBC executives of trying to bury a potentially embarrassing story, saying that weak management and poor leadership were to blame for the fact that a planned expose about the TV star, Jimmy Savile, never aired.

When a rival TV network later broadcast a similar expose about Savile, the BBC came under fire for both harboring an alleged serial sex abuser for decades and for killing its own story about him.

The internal review, carried out by former Sky News television boss Nick Pollard, said the BBC was thrown into disarray when allegations that the late Savile was a serial sex predator were made public, taking more than a month to get a handle on the situation.

The scandal has since metastasized, tainting the reputation of the BBC — the British broadcaster known worldwide for its news and entertainment divisions. It also forced the resignation of the BBC's brand new director-general, George Entwhistle, and raised questions about its former leader, Mark Thompson, who has since become chief executive at The New York Times.

The scandal took on greater dimensions when it emerged that the BBC had cancelled an initial investigation into Savile over the objections of its reporters, raising questions about whether senior executives tried to bury the story to protect the corporation's reputation.

The report published Wednesday absolves the executives of that — the most serious — charge.

In the review, Pollard asked: "Did any inappropriate managerial pressure or consideration influence the decision ... not to run the Savile story?"

"The answer is no," he wrote, noting that while there had been conversations between Mark Rippon, who led the BBC's initial investigation into Savile, and two senior executives, "I do not believe either of them exerted undue pressure on him."

The report does not appear to challenge Thompson's account of his role in the scandal.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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