The British Broadcasting Corp. apppointed former Court of Appeal judge Janet Smith and former British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc (BSY) journalist Nick Pollard to head investigations into entertainer Jimmy Savile, who’s accused of sexually abusing dozens of children over decades.
Smith will probe the culture and practices of the BBC during the 30 years when Savile, who died at the age of 84 last year, worked at the broadcaster, it said yesterday in a statement on its website. Pollard will examine why an episode of the BBC’s “Newsnight” program that investigated sexual abuse claims against Savile was canceled last year.
The accusations against Savile are putting pressure on the BBC, the world’s largest public broadcaster, and other institutions who appointed the entertainer to programs and positions that dealt with children. The BBC will also appoint an independent expert to look at sexual harassment claims.
Police are investigating claims dating back as far as 1959 through 2006, including those that Savile, who hosted popular BBC shows “Top of the Pops” and “Jim’ll Fix It,” misused his status as a charity worker to abuse patients at hospitals.
Smith’s inquiry will include evidence from people who said they were sexually abused by Savile on BBC premises or while on location for the broadcaster, according to the BBC. The Pollard probe will examine whether there were any “failings in the BBC’s management of the Newsnight investigation” and whether there was any “inappropriate managerial pressure’ on the editor of ‘‘Newsnight.’’
Former BBC Director General Mark Thompson is scheduled to start as New York Times Co. (NYT:US)’s chief executive officer next month. Thompson and his successor George Entwistle had ‘‘no involvement in the investigation or the subsequent decision to drop it,’’ the broadcaster has said. Entwistle managed the BBC’s television channels before he became director general.
Peter Rippon, the editor of the ‘‘Newsnight’’ show, has said that he ended the program’s investigation because Savile wasn’t able to defend himself and the level of proof wasn’t sufficient.
The BBC has said that ‘‘Thompson was not directly involved with any of Jimmy Savile’s programming.” The New York Times declined to make Thompson available and to comment on the case.
Pollard is currently head of British Forces Broadcasting. He has been a journalist for 40 years, including 10 years as head of BSkyB’s Sky News.
The Smith review will start only when U.K. police say they’re happy for it to proceed, while the Pollard probe will start immediately.
Entwistle absented himself from the BBC’s Executive Board for the appointment of Smith and Pollard and the decision about the reviews’ terms of reference. The probes will report to the Executive Board which will be chaired by Senior Independent Director Designate Fiona Reynolds for all issues regarding the investigations.
Kate Lampard, a barrister who has held several senior positions in the state-run National Health Service, has been appointed to oversee various NHS investigations into Savile, Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman said today.
“She will deliver consistency, rigor and independence” in her role, Steve Field told reporters in London.
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