Fate of journalists who sought to expose Savile scandal suggests BBC has not learned lessons

The Janet Smith review makes difficult reading for the BBC.

It is far from ideal that one of the corporation's biggest stars over several decades was also one of the most prolific sex offenders in British criminal history committing his crimes in plain sight of colleagues.

But crucially for the reputation of the BBC, she finds no evidence of a cover-up at a senior level.

And as we know from phone-hacking and the News of the World, it is the cover-up which will kill you more than the actual crime.

What the review doesn't tell us is whether today the BBC is the sort of place where allegations of serious misconduct would be exposed rather than suppressed.

The Pollard Review looked in detail at the journalistic failings which led to the December 2011 Newsnight report on Jimmy Savile's history of child abuse being spiked.

But it is worth returning once again to what has happened since then.

Remember, if the BBC had allowed that initial Newsnight report to go ahead most of the fallout from the Savile scandal could have been avoided. If anything, the corporation would have been lauded as an insitution uniquely able to hold a torch to its own failings.

You would think that everyone involved in trying to expose Savile would be held up as exemples to colleagues, nurtured and promoted. You would imagine that today those individuals would be encouraged to tour the BBC empire leading seminars on how to tell truth to power. And you would think that everyone involved in spiking that Savile story would have been encouraged to seek alternative employment.

Instead the opposite has happened.

The investigative reporters who wanted to expose Savile, Meirion Jones and Liz MacKean, both feel they have been squeezed out of the BBC for being troublemakers. They now work elsewhere. Tom Giles, the Panorama editor who investigated Savile failings, has also left – as has Peter Horrocks, the news executive who forced through that Giles's unpopular Panorama investigation.

The Newsnight editor who spiked the initial Savile investigation, Peter Rippen, and the then head of news Helen Boaden, have stayed on in equally senior roles.

The abuse victim who initially went to the BBC with allegations against Jimmy Savile, Karin Ward, was abandoned by the corporation (and ITV) to face her ordeal alone when she was sued by Freddie Starr. The suspicion from Jones was that if Ward was discredited it would help retrospectively justify the decision to suppress her story.

Meirion Jones details all this in far more detail in a Press Gazette interview here.

Another well known journalistic trouble-maker (which I mean as a compliment) former Panorama reporter John Sweeney is currently in the process of being squeezed out of the corporation (they have been trying to make him redundant for around two years).

The BBC will not have learned the lessons of the Savile scandal until it finds a way to encourage and reward mavericks and whistleblowers over yes-men and time-servers.

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