LONDON – An official report on Wednesday criticized the BBC’s handling of allegations of child sex abuse against late presenter Jimmy Savile, but cleared the world’s biggest broadcaster of a coverup.
The findings by an independent inquiry sparked the resignation of the BBC’s deputy director of news, and led to the editor and deputy editor of the program at the center of the scandal being replaced. The report exposed the “chaos and confusion” at the BBC, although it dismissed claims that its flagship current affairs program, “Newsnight,” dropped an investigation into Savile so as not to jeopardize Christmas tribute shows to him.
The BBC commissioned the inquiry by former Sky News executive Nick Pollard in October during a major crisis at the corporation that cost then-Director-General George Entwistle his job.
Savile, who died last year at the age of 84, was one of the BBC’s top TV and radio presenters. The child abuse claims were first made public by rival broadcaster ITV two months ago and since then police have identified 199 crimes in which Savile is a suspect, including 31 alleged rapes.
“Newsnight” first had evidence of the allegations a year ago, shortly after Savile’s death, but it dropped the story after just a few weeks.
The report found no evidence to support claims that this was to avoid an embarrassing clash with planned Christmas tributes to the late star. But it criticized the decision to drop the probe and the BBC’s failure to deal with the ensuing crisis at the broadcaster, which it said was plagued by infighting and a “critical lack of leadership and coordination.”