In the biggest media scandal out of Britian since Rupert Murdoch’s phone hacking ordeal, BBC “Newsnight” editor Peter Rippon has taken a leave of absence after the corporation’s mishandling of a probe into the alleged sexual abuse of minors by late BBC host Jimmy Savile.About 200 potential victims have come forward as part of a formal criminal investigation into the alleged sexual abuse of minors by “Top of the Pops” host Jimmy Savile and others.
“Today, BBC ‘Newsnight’ editor Peter Rippon became the first executive to step aside over the corporation’s handling of the situation,” reports Deadline. “Rippon’s suspension comes ahead of a potentially damning report to air tonight on ‘Panorama,’ another BBC investigative series, about his decision to kill a ‘Newsnight’ piece on Savile last year.”
While some staffers say the piece was an editorial brief to find failings with prosecutors’ prior handling of the complaints against Savile, “Newsnight” journalist Liz MacKean says on “Panorama” tonight that “The story we were investigating was very clear cut. It was about Jimmy Savile being a pedophile.”
“The ‘Panorama’ piece reportedly includes suggestions that Rippon was subject to pressure from BBC bosses to ditch the investigation so Savile tribute shows could air at Christmastime without controversy,” reports Deadline. “Savile, who had hosted ‘Top Of The Pops’ and wish-granting show ‘Jim’ll Fix It,’ had passed away just a few months earlier.”
Rippon tried to defend his decision to axe the program by writing a blog post earlier this month explaining his action.
Rippon wrote in the blog that “we had no evidence against the BBC,” but the corporation now admits Newsnight’s reporters had been told Savile abused girls on BBC premises.
Two other facts the BBC disputes from Rippon’s post are his statements that “we are confident that all the women we spoke to had contacted the police independently already” and “no new evidence against any other person that would have helped the police.”
The BBC confirmed Monday that Rippon “is stepping aside with immediate effect from his post while the review by Nick Pollard, the former head of Sky News, into the management of Newsnight’s investigation, is carried out.”
The BBC also issued some corrections to Rippon’s blog post and announced “On the basis of material now available, it is apparent from information supplied by the Newsnight editor and program team, that the explanation by the editor in his blog of his decision to drop the program’s investigation is inaccurate or incomplete in some respects.”
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