Bloomberg News

Cameron Won't Rule Out Inquiry Into Savile Sex Scandal

October 22, 2012

Prime Minister David Cameron said he won’t rule out the possibility of a public inquiry into allegations of child sex abuse by late TV star Jimmy Savile.

Savile, who was knighted for charity work in 1990, has been accused of sexually abusing dozens of children over the 30 years he worked at the broadcaster. The British Broadcasting Corp. has set up two inquiries into the matter, one into the abuse allegations and one into why its “Newsnight” program canceled its investigation of Savile.

“I don’t rule out further inquiries,” Cameron told ITV’s “The Agenda” program tonight, although he added: “we’ve got about six under way and I think if you added another one it might slow down the search for the truth.”

A television and radio star from the 1960s, Savile fronted the program “Jim’ll Fix It,” which granted children wishes such as meeting celebrities and presented chart music show “Top of the Pops.” He died last year.

Alongside the BBC probes, the state-run National Health Service has set up three investigations into allegations of abuse by Savile at two hospitals and a high-security unit for psychiatric patients. Those investigations are being independently overseen, Cameron said.

London police are reviewing the abuse claims of as many as 200 people, including allegations against Savile, dating from 1959 to 2006.

Earlier the BBC said the editor of its “Newsnight” program is stepping aside hours before another of its shows claimed that the editor was pressured to cancel a segment on child abuse by Savile.

Immediate Effect

Peter Rippon’s move takes place with immediate effect while the broadcaster investigates how executives handled the scandal, the BBC said in a statement today. Rippon’s explanation on his blog for dropping the program was “inaccurate or incomplete in some respects,” it said.

Another BBC program, “Panorama,” which covers current affairs, said that BBC Director General George Entwistle knew about the Savile segment before it was canceled. “Panorama” also reported that “Newsnight” journalist Liz MacKean wrote to a friend that Rippon was feeling under pressure and he said he couldn’t “go to the wall on this one” if “the bosses aren’t happy.”

Entwistle was managing the broadcaster’s television channels at the time and became director general this year. He will give testimony to a U.K. parliamentary committee investigating the scandal tomorrow. The previous director general, Mark Thompson, is scheduled to start as New York Times Co. (NYT:US)’s chief executive officer next month.

Asked whether Entwistle should resign, Cameron replied, “I don’t think it’s a question of that at this stage.”

He added that the BBC needs to ask itself “some very searching questions.”

Thompson and Entwistle had “no involvement in the investigation or the subsequent decision to drop it,” the broadcaster has said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kitty Donaldson in London at kdonaldson1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net


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