Broadcaster’s bosses fear for BBC’s future after findings on failures over Jimmy Savile
By David Hencke, Mark Watts and Tim Wood | 22 September 2015
Whitehall and BBC sources say that Dame Janet Smith’s review into the Savile scandal is so damaging that senior executives fear that it threatens the future of the broadcaster.
One BBC insider said: “The key element is management’s knowledge and tolerance of abuse over decades.”
BBC management wants to delay publication until towards the end of next year at the earliest, putting it back until after a government decision on the BBC’s charter. The current charter expires at the end of 2016, and ministers are expected to decide on the future shape of the BBC a few months before this.
John Whittingdale, culture secretary, is already expected to take a tough stance over the BBC’s licence fee.
A second BBC source, who has detailed knowledge of the Savile review, told Exaro that Smith, a former Court of Appeal judge, completed a draft of her report around a year ago. And her report is damning of senior BBC managers.
Savile was one of the BBC’s biggest stars, on radio and television. The review also examines the BBC’s failures over another of its stars, Stuart Hall, who was convicted of indecently assaulting girls.
Exaro revealed in July how BBC managers stand accused of failing to act on concerns about Savile’s prolific abuse.
Whitehall and BBC sources revealed that Smith has sent letters to management figures who are criticised in her report, seeking any further comment. A BBC insider said that Smith sent those letters at the beginning of this year. “So between themselves, managers and ex-managers must know what she is saying,” the source added.
Although the Smith report has not been formally submitted to the BBC, sources at the broadcaster made clear that its senior management is well aware of how damaging the review findings are. BBC chiefs are understood to be very alarmed by Smith’s report.
The process of writing to those who are criticised in the draft of an inquiry report is known as “Maxwellisation”. It is named after Robert Maxwell, the late newspaper publisher and subject of a government report in 1969.
BBC managers and former managers have been delaying their responses to Smith as part of a strategy to hold off publication of her report, according to a Whitehall source. A similar issue has delayed Sir John Chilcot’s report of his inquiry into the UK’s invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Exaro understands that Smith has watered down the report after receiving strong objections to many of her criticisms.
Smith was ready to publish in the spring. However, a statement by the review in May said that publication was being delayed after the Metropolitan Police Service expressed concern that it could prejudice ongoing criminal investigations into sexual abuse.
Exaro understands that the police only needed small sections of the review report to be withheld.
A BBC insider said: “Very, very little is prejudicial – very little – 99 per cent could be run.”
The Met is making no comment.
The Whitehall source said that the BBC’s strategy department decided two years ago that the Smith review, commissioned in 2012, would either have to be rushed out well ahead of a decision on charter renewal, or delayed until after it.
The BBC said in a statement: “Timing of the report is entirely a matter for the review.”
Meanwhile, BBC1’s repeatedly-delayed Panorama programme to try to “debunk” claims of a ‘Westminster paedophile network’ has been re-thought after a clash with BBC News. It has been forced to recognise official acknowledgement of VIP paedophiles and former police officers’ claims of cover-ups.
Panorama insiders say that it has spent a fortune on the programme, so has to go ahead despite having no story.
It plans to claim that Chris Fay, formerly of a campaign group, the National Association for Young People in Care, put words in the mouth of a survivor of child sex abuse who named Lord Brittan, former home secretary, as a paedophile to police.
Fay denied Panorama’s claim, telling Exaro: “We handed him Dods parliamentary directory, and said, ‘See whether there is anybody you recognise.’”
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