Newsnight (partially found untelevised BBC report concerning Jimmy Savile sexual abuse allegations; 2011)
Newsnight is a BBC news and current affairs television program. Broadcast since 1980, it aims to bring in-depth analysis, as well as providing detailed and at time controversial interviews concerning the latest issues. The show had planned to air a segment in December 2011 concerning allegations of sexual abuse committed by television and radio personality Jimmy Savile. However, for reasons mired in controversy, the special was never broadcast, preventing reports into Savile's alleged crimes from fully materialising until October 2012.
Jimmy Savile was a British DJ, television and radio personality, best known for hosting programs like Top of the Pops and Jim'll Fix It. Hosting of these shows, combined with his charity fundraising where he raised around £40 million for charities, and hospital work for places like Stoke Mandeville Hospital, led to him being deemed a national treasure, and he was knighted by the Queen in 1990. Thus, when he passed away on 29th October 2011, much of the United Kingdom was in deep mourning, and many tributes were made to him, including by the BBC.
Not long after his death, however, Newsnight journalists Meirion Jones and Liz Mackean had started to build an investigation into allegations that Savile had committed sex crimes, including sexual abuse against children. They had contacted and had begun to interview with at least one alleged victim, who claimed she was abused as an underage teenager backstage during recordings of Clunk, Click. In addition, other individuals were interviewed, of whom claimed that Savile had committed abuse at the BBC, Duncroft Approved School, and Stoke Mandeville Hospital, where in the latter it was found that Savile had almost unrestricted access to its premises. Some who were interviewed were former pupils of Duncroft Approved School in Staines, Surrey, where it was noted Savile frequently visited the premises, of which Jones' aunt Margaret was headmistress of the school, and was accused by at least one victim of knowing about Savile's crimes.
Additionally, Mark Williams-Thomas, an investigative journalist and former police detective had alongside other Newsnight personnel discovered that Savile had been investigated by Surrey Police in 2009 concerning sexual abuse, including at Duncroft Approved School. By late-2011, Jones and MacKean had enough information to potentially break the story regarding Savile's history of abusing young women and girls, with the report due to be broadcast in December that year.
Despite the report being substantial and ready to be broadcast, it was quietly decided at the time by Newsnight's editor Peter Rippon to drop the segment. A series of emails from late November to 9th December 2011, was leaked in October 2012 and helped illustrate the change of heart Rippon had with the report. Despite Jones warning Rippon about "substantial" damage to BBC's reputation if the report was scrapped, Rippon announced on 9th December that the report would be dropped because Crown Prosecution Service dropped an early investigation into Savile due to lack of evidence rather than Savile being too old and frail to stand trial.
Prior to October 2012, a few news reports alleged a cover-up, with The Sunday Mirror becoming the first to note the dropped segment in January 2012. Meanwhile, The Oldie Magazine alleged in February that BBC executives shelved the report in order to save the organisation's reputation. Particularly, a source from 'BBC News claimed the report was cancelled because the BBC did not want to compromise the planned tributes for Savile in December 2011, and that it could have damaged BBC's reputation since some allegations centred around Savile abusing victims at BBC premises.
However, a Newsnight spokesman, claimed the reason behind the cancellation was purely due to editorial reasons, stating that it was dropped in favour of other segments and because it was believed the angle the segment pursued was not substantial enough. Despite the cover-up allegations, reports into the matter quietened down, with Savile keeping his positive reputation.
Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile
On 3rd October 2012, ITV broadcast a documentary titled Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile. It was presented by Williams-Thomas, who continued his research into Savile's alleged crimes, with interviews coming from several women who claimed to have been abused by Savile when they were teenagers. The report also alleged that Savile gained access to underaged teenage girls through his television programmes and that some of his colleagues claimed that he openly expressed interest in girls to them.
Following the broadcast, more alleged victims of Savile came forward to police forces across the United Kingdom to reveal their stories. As a result, Operation Yewtree was launched on 19th October to investigate historic sexual offences committed by Savile and other notable individuals like Rolf Harris, Max Clifford and former Stoke Mandeville Hospital doctor Michael Salmon. The investigation determined that Savile had at least 450 alleged victims, making him one of Britain's most prolific sex offenders. His alleged actions had no bounds, with victims ranging from both genders, and from prepubescent to adult age. Additionally, he was given free rein at places like adult high-security psychiatric Broadmoor Hospital, and Stoke Mandeville Hospital, which treated many cases of spinal injuries. Victims unable to fight back or even comprehend what was happening to them, were consistently abused by Savile during his visits. Further, allegations that Savile also engaged in necrophiliac acts in places like the mortuary in Broadmoor Hospital, also came to light.
The Pollard Report
As allegations against Savile publicly arose, the BBC received heavy criticism, for how the institution failed to protect people against Savile and other sexual abusers who ultimately committed crimes at the organisation's premises, but also for the dropped Newsnight segment. The BBC launched a £2 million inquiry concerning why the report was cancelled in favour of broadcasting Savile tributes. Headed by former Head of Sky News Nick Pollard, the Pollard Report was fully published on 18th December 2012. A summary of the 185-page report concluded that poor leadership from BBC higher-ups, reliance on structured management chains and chaos within the organisational culture contributed towards the BBC being unable to properly handle the Savile allegations. The report criticised director general George Entwistle, who resigned following the Savile scandal in early November, and other senior executives for not being capable of determining why the Newsnight report was axed, which could have exposed Savile in late-2011.
The Pollard Inquiry also criticised Newsnight's editor Peter Rippon for his "seriously flawed" decision to drop the report and Deputy Director of News Stephen Mitchell for a "serious mistake" whereby he decided to remove the Newsnight report from the "managed risk programmes" list in November 2011. Had it remained on the list, other BBC executives could have been informed of the controversial report, and with it the allegations that could have been fully investigated by the organisation. The report's findings led to Rippon being replaced as Newsnight editor, as well as the retirement of Mitchell at the BBC after 38 years.
On 22nd October 2012, the BBC's Panorama broadcast a special report called Jimmy Savile: What The BBC Knew, which as the title suggests, examined how the organisation handled the allegations against Savile. Rumours speculated some of the Newsnight footage would be included in the report, including some of the interviews. Ultimately, the broadcast included one interview sourced from the original Newsnight report, where Karin Ward, an ex-student at Duncroft Approved School, discussed the abuse she suffered at the hands of Savile. Additionally, another Newsnight report broadcast the same week as the Panorama documentary contained some of the interview of Rochelle Shepherd, another Duncroft student, but notably without any of the accusations against Margaret Jones.
Hence, of the work produced by Newsnight for this report, two interviews, one only partially, have ever been publicly released. Considering that the investigation into Savile's crimes has long since ceased, it is highly unlikely that any other additional Newsnight footage, including that of the uncut Shepherd interview, will ever be released.
- The Pollard Review in full.
- Guardian article providing a timeline of the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse scandal.
- CNN article detailing how Savile was deemed a national treasure before his crimes were uncovered. Retrieved 4 Sep '21
- Daily Mirror article reporting on Newsnight's interview with a woman claiming to be abused by Savile during recordings of Clunk, Click. Retrieved 4 Sep '21
- PressGazette reporting on the Newsnight script including one interview of a victim at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Retrieved 4 Sep '21
- Guardian article mentioning some of the interviews came from alleged victims at Duncroft Approved School. Retrieved 4 Sep '21
- Daily Star article reporting on Duncroft Approved School allegations. Retrieved 4 Sep '21
- BBC News article concerning Newsnight investigations into the 2009 Surrey Police investigations over Savile abuse claims. Retrieved 4 Sep '21
- BBC News article reporting that the Newsnight report was to be broadcast in December 2011 prior to being dropped. Retrieved 4 Sep '21
- Guardian article providing a timeline of the emails sent that led to the Newsnight report being cancelled. Retrieved 4 Sep '21
- Updated version of the original Sunday Mirror article reporting on the dropped Newsnight report, with allegations of a cover-up already having been made. Retrieved 4 Sep '21
- Archived Telegraph report discussing cover-up allegations made by The Oldie Magazine and a BBC News source. Retrieved 4 Sep '21
- Guardian review of Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile. Retrieved 4 Sep '21
- Independent review of Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile. Retrieved 4 Sep '21
- BBC News article reporting on the 450 alleged sexual abuse victims of Savile, with variation on gender and age. Retrieved 4 Sep '21
- Independent article concerning Savile abusing staff, patients and visitors, including at Broadmoor Hospital. Retrieved 4 Sep '21
- Guardian article reporting on Savile allegedly abusing 60 victims during his free rein at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Retrieved 4 Sep '21
- Guardian article reporting on alleged necrophiliac acts made by Savile. Retrieved 4 Sep '21
- Open Democracy reporting on the Pollard Report. Retrieved 4 Sep '21
- Guardian article summarising the findings of the Pollard Report. Retrieved 4 Sep '21
- Business Insider article reporting on rumours that Jimmy Savile: What The BBC Knew may contain Newsnight footage and interviews. Retrieved 4 Sep '21
- BBC News article reporting on Jimmy Savile: What The BBC Knew, and the aired Newsnight interview of Karin Ward. Retrieved 4 Sep '21
- Guardian providing a blog on Jimmy Savile: What The BBC Knew as it aired, including the Karin Ward interview. Retrieved 4 Sep '21
- Daily Mail article concerning the partially aired Rochelle Shepherd interview. Retrieved 4 Sep '21