BBC scapegoating claims; NYT pres. queried

LONDON, Oct. 25 (UPI) -- A BBC journalist said network bosses turned an editor into a scapegoat in a child sexual abuse scandal, and a British lawmaker called for top officers to quit.

"If BBC journos/Eds make a poor editorial call, (& most of us hve at some point), will they be treated by mgemnt like Peter Rippon has been?" Victoria Derbyshire wrote on Twitter Wednesday after Director General George Entwistle blamed the editor of England's version of "60 Minutes" for canceling an investigative report on a now-dead TV host posthumously accused of being a predatory child-sex offender mostly interested in girls.


Rippon resigned from the "Newsnight" program Monday.

The "Newsnight" investigation into pedophilia accusations against iconic TV host Jimmy Savile -- who died Oct. 29, 2011, at age 84 -- was canceled while a package of Christmastime tributes to the host was broadcast.


Savile spent 20 years hosting the BBC-TV's long-running "Top of the Pops" music chart show before a teenage audience and another 20 years presenting "Jim'll Fix It," in which he helped the wishes of viewers, mainly children, come true.

London's Metropolitan Police Service, also known as Scotland Yard, launched a criminal investigation Friday into allegations of child sexual abuse by Savile and other people over four decades.

Police said they were pursuing more than 400 leads involving more than 200 "potential victims," mostly young girls. They described the alleged abuse as being "on an unprecedented scale" and said the number of potential victims was "staggering."

As the scandal deepened, a conservative member of Parliament became the first politician to suggest Entwistle and Chris Patten, chairman of the governing BBC Trust, may have to "fall on their swords" over the handling of the allegations about the TV personality.

Roger Gale, a former BBC reporter and producer who later ran BBC children's programming, also accused Patten of "corporate arrogance" in his response to a question by Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Maria Miller about the BBC's transparency in its internal scandal investigations.

"I know that you will not want to give any impression that you are questioning the independence of the BBC," Patten wrote back to her.


The scandal has spilled into the United States because the BBC director-general at the time the Savile documentary was spiked is incoming New York Times Co. President Mark Thompson.

Thompson, 55, has changed his story over the past 12 days.

He said in a statement Oct. 13 he knew nothing about the "Newsnight" investigation while it was under way and had no role in canceling the report. He also said he "never heard any allegations or received any complaints about Jimmy Savile."

A number of BBC employees told the BBC's competing "Panorama" news program in a broadcast that aired Monday Savile's appetite for underage girls was well known at the network.

In addition, a BBC foreign correspondent said she told Thompson about the "broad context" of the axed Savile expose at a BBC Christmas in December, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Caroline Hawley, who works for "Newsnight," said she raised the issue after talking with other "Newsnight" journalists who were unhappy about being told to abandon the report.

Thompson later confirmed he had a conversation with Hawley, but said he didn't ask her about any details. He also appeared to adjust his description of what he knew about the "Newsnight" investigation.


"I was never formally notified about the 'Newsnight' investigation and was not briefed about the allegations they were examining and to what extent, if at all, those allegations related to Savile's work at the BBC," he said in a letter Tuesday.

Thompson told the Times Wednesday he saw no contradiction between the Oct. 13 and Tuesday statements.

Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan wrote in a column, "It's worth considering now whether [Thompson] is the right person for the [Times] job, given this turn of events."

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