Former BBC news chief Boaden offered to resign over Savile - instead she was made £455k head of radio - Press Gazette

Former BBC news chief Boaden offered to resign over Savile - instead she was made £455k head of radio

Former BBC head of news Helen Boaden offered to resign the week ITV broadcast allegations of child abuse against Jimmy Savile which had been suppressed by Newsnight.

The news emerged as Boaden spoke at the Radio Academy Festival in Salford.

Instead of losing her job in the wake of Savile Scandal, in February this year she was moved sideways from the £455,000 head of news job to become head of radio on the same money.

It emerged in July that the BBC spent £5m investigating the Savile scandal, including £101,000 to cover “legal and related costs” for Boaden.

In December 2011, Newsnight editor Peter Rippon decided to drop the Savile investigation.

Instead of exposing Savile as a paedophile, that month the BBC ran a special tribute edition of Jim’ll Fix It. Sex abuse allegations against Savile were instead eventually broadcast by ITV in October 2012 in a documentary which was largely based on the same witnesses who had come forward to the BBC.

Boaden was still head of news on 2 November last year when Newsnight published a report which led to Lord McAlpine being falsely accused of being a paedophile. She had removed herself from making decisions about Savile-related stories, pending an internal review, and a review in the McAlpine affair found there was confusion in the BBC about whether the story was Savile-related or not.

The Guardian reports that Boaden said yesterday: “I offered my resignation in the week of the ITV documentary on Savile.

"Not because I suppressed journalism, but as head of news I felt we had made a bad mistake, we missed a story [and] it was on my watch. The buck stops with me".

She said she had discussions with her bosses about her future at the BBC.

“They were encouraging and supportive. They knew I had been a good citizen over many years, and they knew I had a hell of a lot of experience and they probably had their own views about what had happened.”

The £2m Pollard Review into Newsnight’s decision to spike the Jimmy Savile story found that the decision was “flawed” but taken in “good faith” – and was not the result of inappropriate managerial pressure, a report into the corporation has concluded.

One of the key failings behind the decision to spike the report was  deputy director of news Stephen Mitchell’s decision to take the story off the BBC’s Managed Risk Programmes List.

Mitchell resigned from the BBC in December 2012.

In February 2013, Rippon was moved to a non news role and put in charge off the BBC archive.

Former Radio Five controller Adrian Van Klaveran, who approved the McAlpine Newsnight report, was made controller of the BBC’s First World War centenary coverage in January 2013.



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Author: Dominic Ponsford

Dominic Ponsford is the editor of Press Gazette