Thursday, 25 October 2012

Savile ... and the Panorama pitch


The BBC confirmed to me this morning that the Newsnight ‘Savile’ producer, Meirion Jones, pitched his investigation to Panorama on the same day he pitched it to Newsnight.

The BBC says that in a short, five or six line email to the Panorama editor Tom Giles on 31 October 2011 - two days after Jimmy Savile had died - Jones wrote that he believed he could gather evidence of Savile’s abuse at the Duncroft Home where his aunt had been headmistress. 

The email to Giles was, as he later explained, "to keep his options open”.

Jones had already had one meeting with the Panorama editor to talk in general terms about the possibility of working on longer investigations. And they were due to meet again – but after Newsnight editor Peter Rippon had given Jones and reporter Liz MacKean the green light to start collecting evidence, that meeting never happened.

There was no further contact between the Panorama editor and Jones until pre-programme publicity for the ITV programme Exposure:the other side of Jimmy Savile began to appear in the press. There is no suggestion that Giles looked at any of the evidence gathered for Newsnight nor that he was aware of the detail of the investigation.

Important questions

On Tuesday, BBC Director General George Entwistle told MPs: "we do have to address this question of what comes of journalism that doesn't necessarily result in immediate output".

It's likely that former Sky News executive Nick Pollard will want to know why, when Newsnight producer Jones had an ‘open channel’ to Panorama, he and his reporter did not take their evidence to Giles in December 2011 to make a formal pitch for a half-hour slot.

Soon after the Newsnight investigation was shelved, well-sourced leaks suggested it had been dropped because of pressure from above, to avoid embarrassment over the BBC's planned Christmas Savile tributes and to protect its reputation.

9 comments:

Darcy said...

Hi Kevin,

Can I ask what the purpose of this post is? It seems quite obvious to me but I wouldn’t want to jump to conclusions, so thought I’d ask.

Thanks.

Kevin Marsh said...

Hi Darcy,
Nice to hear from you again.
I think the point is that when the two Newsnight journalists appeared on Panorama, they seemed to make a case against their own editor that he had stopped the victims of Savile being heard.
That is a very serious charge.
However, it now appears that one of the journalists involved had opened a channel to Panorama on the same day he pitched the story to his own editor. "To keep options open".
If those journalists were as concerned as they now say to ensure Savile's victims were heard, it is a puzzle to understand why they didn't use that already open channel.
Instead, very well-informed leaks that can only have come from someone who knew about the Newsnight investigation in intimate detail appeared in the press alleging "pressure from bosses" to shelve the investigation.
What journalists in the BBC are now wondering is what exactly is the motive of the Newsnight journalists.

Darcy said...

Hi Kevin,

Thanks, yes I got the gist of the post I was wondering why you choose to highlight it? It could be read as a genuine interest in the possibility that there is a failing in the BBC’s processes, or alternatively as raising a question mark over the integrity of a person, who initiated an investigation for the BBC, which engendered the phrase ‘a watershed moment in child protection’ to be uttered by a senior police officer yesterday.

I just wondered which it was.

Thanks.

Kevin Marsh said...

Hi Darcy,
It's a way of saying that all may not quite be as it seems following the Panorama ... and that there remain many questions for the Pollard inquiry to answer.
We've heard the case for the prosecution against the Newsnight editor - we haven't yet heard the case for the defence, though the DG seems to have prejudged that.

newsmutt said...

Indeed Kevin... Whilst on a very different subject, the HONEST truth can only come out if everyone involved is given a fair hearing by Pollard. I genuinely hope this doesn't turn out to be another Hutton-esque conclusion - as described in your book. There are some who are already making extremely serious and public allegations online - in my view a very unwise practice.

Darcy said...

Thanks Kevin. Indeed, many questions still remain for the inquiry to answer, it may seem a tad churlish of me but I have to point out that Peter supposedly had his say in his blog. Of course that just raises more questions. Indeed all I would like is the honest truth but with the various sides (I'm not even sure how many there are at times!) leaking and briefing against each other, the one thing we all hope we can trust the BBC for, we are still not getting. It's very sad and the longer it goes on, the more damage is likely to occur.

Neil Gellard said...

Hi Kevin,

I'm doing an MA in Journalism at Salford Uni and I am writing a news feature on ethical reporting and was very much hoping to do an interview with you at some point over the next 4 or 5 weeks?

The piece discusses the Savile case and the kind of questions I'll be posing will be: did the press let down Savile's victims?; has there been a widespread media cover-up?; what should (and could) the press have done differently within PCC code?; will Leveson's recommendations (if statutory regulation) help or hinder the kind of investigatory journalism which exposes and prevents horrific cases of this kind?

If you could kindly spare 20 minutes to do a face-to-face, I'd be hugely grateful. I eagerly await your response.

Best regards,
Neil Gellard
M:07918 168994 T: @NGellard

Frank Jackson said...

One organisation that needs to be investigated is St John ambulance:
www.stjohnnz.com

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