The BBC has been accused of “a cover-up of a cover-up of a cover-up” by the journalist who exposed the full details of Newsnight’s spiked Jimmy Savile investigation.
Freelance Miles Goslett revealed in the Oldie magazine in February 2012 the contents of the BBC Two programme’s investigation into Savile, which was spiked in December 2011. This included allegations that the DJ had abused children on BBC premises.
Writing in the same publication this month, Goslett has described his own lengthy investigation into the BBC’s handling of the Savile scandal, including legal action taken against him by the BBC.
He also highlights what he sees as the BBC’s three main "cover-ups":
1 – The abandonment of the Newsnight investigation into Savile, therefore withholding various sex abuse claims made against the former Top of the Pops DJ
2 – The fact that former BBC director-general Mark Thompson was cleared in the Pollard Review – despite the report’s author, Nick Pollard, being told by BBC executive Helen Boaden that she informed Thompson about the Savile allegations before tribute programmes to the DJ were broadcast in December 2011
3 – The BBC Trust’s decision that the Pollard Review was valid, despite Pollard admitting on tape that he made a “mistake” omitting the Boaden evidence.
Although The Oldie piece was followed up in The Daily Telegraph and on the Guido Fawkes blog in February 2012, the Savile scandal only began to dominate the news agenda after an ITV documentary broadcast in October 2012.
Prior to this, in August 2012, Goslett had been working on an investigation into the dropped Newsnight programme for The Sunday Times Magazine. However, he says the piece was “jettisoned” by the title after the BBC paid law firm Mills & Reeve £803 to issue a legal letter “threatening to sue if it published any story stating that Thompson or Boaden had been involved in suppressing Newsnight’s Savile/sex abuse investigation”.
In December 2012, the BBC published the Pollard Review, an inquiry into the Newsnight scandal, which cost £3m and was overseen by the former head of Sky News Nick Pollard.
In February 2013 Goslett was rung by Pollard and told that he had omitted evidence from his report. The missing detail Pollard excluded was that then BBC head of news Boaden said she was called by then director general Thompson in December 2011 asking about Newsnight's investigation of Savile having heard about it at a BBC drinks party. The BBC director general then allowed tribute programmes to Savile to go ahead that month anyway.
Goslett reports that Pollard admitted to him that he made a “mistake” by withholding this from his report. He asked Goslett to publish news of the omission without naming him as the source.
The journalist was angered when, after this story appeared in The Sunday Times in February 2013, Pollard cut off contact. Goslett took a tape of the Pollard phone call to Tory MP Rob Wilson "for public interest reasons". Wilson then confronted BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten.
After being “stonewalled” by Patten, Wilson passed him the tape recording given to him by Goslett. According to the journalist Patten initially suggested "legal action might ensue if he gave the tape to anybody else”.
Later, Patten and the BBC Trust considered the recording, and concluded that it did not change the outcome of the report.
A spokesman for Pollard told the Telegraph in December 2013: "The remarks attributed to Mr Pollard appear to be an interpretation of a private conversation some months ago.
"It is inappropriate for any reliance to be placed on the interpretation of an informal conversation which contained a lot of speculation on both sides. The Pollard Review stands by all the conclusions in its report."
Goslett wrote: “What is particularly interesting is that Thompson has never asked The Oldie or The Daily Telegraph or the Guido Fawkes website to remove references dating from February 2012 which state that he knew about Newsnight’s investigation of Savile but did nothing.
“I emailed Thompson and several of his New York Times colleagues for the purposes of this article asking why, since he is so convinced he never heard any allegations about Savile until after he quit the BBC, and has been cleared by the Pollard Review, he has not asked for a total retraction from each publication.
“He didn’t reply – just as he had not replied when asked about the original Oldie article.”
A BBC Trust spokesperson said: "It is a matter of public record that Trustees listened to the recording in question and considered it did not undermine the conclusions of the Pollard report which we believe was an independent, fair and thorough examination of the issues raised."
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