The BBC this morning published 3,000 pages of interviews and correspondence related to the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal and the 2011 shelving of a Newsnight program that would have revealed the late host’s alleged crimes. The documents include few earthshattering revelations, but are laced with internal criticisms and email chains that provide a window onto the workings of the venerable broadcaster whose armor has been severely dinged in the past several months as a result of the combined crises. (Read the full report here.)
The documents, provided by the Pollard Inquiry into the handling of the Newsnight affair, include testimony from key witnesses like Newsnight anchor Jeremy Paxman, whose evidence has been the focus of much scrutiny given its criticisms of management. He told interviewers that the Pollard Inquiry was being conducted in a “ridiculous fashion” and called the BBC’s behavior regarding the Newsnight report “contemptible.” He further said he’d been surprised by then-editor Peter Rippon’s response when Paxman wanted to pursue the Savile investigation after learning that rival ITV was about to air its own exposé. According to Paxman, Rippon said “I just can’t do this.” Paxman contends the use of the word ‘can’t’ was “very, very unusual… and I didn’t say, ‘What do you mean ‘can’t'? Someone has told you that you can’t, or you physically can’t face it?’” Paxman says he now believes it was a mixture of both. (The BBC said yesterday that Rippon would take over a newly-created post as editor of the BBC online archive). Paxman added that Savile’s behavior was “common gossip” around the corporation, although much of his testimony has been redacted. The BBC said today that 3% of the overall information has been blacked out “for a very limited number of legal reasons.” Read More »
Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage
In the past few months, the crisis-plagued BBC has repeatedly apologized for its mishandling of the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal and this weekend was forced to offer up yet another mea culpa. In a programming gaffe, children’s channel CBeebies re-ran a 2001 episode of kids’ show The Tweenies that included a puppet parody of the pre-scandal Savile. The episode featured the character Max dressed in a tracksuit, a white wig and gold chains while presenting a music show in the style of Top Of The Pops — the iconic BBC show Savile hosted for much of his career — and using Savile’s catchphrases. Savile’s sordid past came to light in October, a year after his death in 2011, and earlier this month a Metropolitan Police report found he had abused children as young as 8, with some indecent activity occurring on BBC premises. The Tweenies ran from 1999 to 2003 but is frequently repeated on the dedicated channel. A BBC spokesman apologized for causing offense over the airing and insisted the program would not be repeated.
Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage
UPDATE, 4:49 AM: The BBC has responded to the findings of this mornig’s report that exposes the extent of sexual abuse by former BBC host Jimmy Savile. In a statement, the broadcaster said: “As we have made clear, the BBC is appalled that some of the offences were committed on its premises. We would like to restate our sincere apology to the victims of these crimes. The BBC will continue to work with the police to help them investigate these matters. We have also set up the Dame Janet Smith Review to help us understand how these crimes could have been committed and how we can avoid them happening ever again.”
PREVIOUS: While the scandal-plagued BBC has ceased making headlines on a daily basis, a report on sexual abuse allegations against late BBC personality Jimmy Savile could turn attention back to the corporation’s past. The ‘Giving Victims a Voice’ report reveals that the former Top Of The Pops host committed 214 criminal offenses against children and young people – some as young as 8 – over four decades. Released by the Metropolitan Police and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the report says Savile used the celebrity he earned through high-profile BBC hosting gigs like Top Of The Pops and Jim’ll Fix It to gain access to children and dupe institutions, including the BBC itself, Read More »
Sony Backs UK Consortium Bidding For LondonTV License
A group known as the Channel 6 Consortium has announced that Sony Pictures Television Networks in the UK has agreed to support LondonTV, the Consortium’s proposed local channel. There are currently 6 groups bidding for the license that regulator Ofcom will grant by February 2013. Under the agreement, SPT Networks will be a program schedule provider and deliver creative services for LondonTV in the event of a successful bid. SPT Networks’ UK advertising partner would also handle all advertising sales for LondonTV. The consortium is backed by London newspaper groups Archant, Tindle and Trinity Mirror. LondonTV’s mission is to produce thousands of hours of high quality local news and current affairs programming on an annual basis. Sony’s involvement would add series and films. Chief exec of the Channel 6 Consortium, Richard Horwood, said Sony’s “expertise in the multichannel sector will significantly strengthen LondonTV from the outset.” SPT Networks already operates Sony Entertainment Television and Sony Movie Channel in the UK. Read More »
Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage
Just four days into his new job as CEO of The New York Times Company, Mark Thompson is again the subject of an article in its flagship newspaper. A story published today by The New York Times says a new piece of information “raises questions” about assertions Thompson has made with regard to when he learned of allegations of sexual abuse against late BBC host Jimmy Savile. Thompson told the NYT in October, “During my time as director general of the BBC, I never heard any allegations or received any complaints about Jimmy Savile.” He has also maintained that he knew nothing of a cancelled investigation by the BBC‘s flagship current affairs program Newsnight into the claims against Savile. But the NYT reports today that a letter sent by lawyers eight days before Thompson left the BBC in September reveals he was involved in “aggressive” legal action pertaining to the Savile story. The letter, sent on behalf of Thompson and news chief Helen Boaden, threatened Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Times newspaper with “defamation proceedings” if it were to publish an article alleging the pair had orchestrated a cover-up over the scuppered Newsnight broadcast.
NYT Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. Welcomes Mark Thompson As CEO
Latest Fiasco At BBC Turns Up The Heat On Incoming NYT CEO
The NYT, which has closely scrutinized Thompson’s role in the saga, says the letter has been revealed to include a summary of the abuse alleged against Savile, and the fact that some of the abuse was alleged to have taken place on BBC premises. A Thompson aide told the NYT that Thompson orally authorized the sending of the letter but did not know the details of its contents. “It’s not clear if he was shown it,” the aide said, “but he doesn’t remember reading it.”
Read More »
Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage
BBC director general George Entwistle was accused of a “lamentable lack of editorial curiosity” as he appeared before a Parliamentary select committee this morning. The two-hour session focused on the scandal engulfing the broadcaster amid rampant sexual abuse allegations against late Top Of The Pops host Jimmy Savile, as well as suggestions of an editorial cover-up by the BBC’s leading investigative journalism program, Newsnight. Entwistle was faced with new pressure to explain why Newsnight‘s report on Savile was dropped last year, even though it delivered serious revelations about the allegations that had not previously been published. “There was clearly some good journalistic material,” he conceded today, adding, “Further investigation would have been appropriate.”
Entwistle left Newsnight editor Peter Rippon to shoulder much of the blame for dropping the December 2011 investigation into Savile. The BBC yesterday corrected Rippon’s version of events surrounding the story’s spiking, and Rippon was suspended pending the results of the BBC’s inquiry into the scandal. (Meanwhile, attorney Dinah Rose, who has acted on behalf of News International in civil phone-hacking claims, will be hired by the BBC to help on the Savile investigation, The Guardian reported.)
Read More »
Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage
UPDATE: The Metropolitan Police has told the BBC it can begin its investigations into the culture and practices at the broadcaster during the time that late TV host Jimmy Savile is alleged to have sexually abused minors. Amid controversy over whether the BBC may have turned a blind eye to Savile’s alleged behavior, the corporation this week appointed independent reviewers to lead the inquiries, but said it would start only when authorities were ready. The police dubbed its own investigation into alleged exploitation by Savile and others, Operation Yewtree, and today says the case has become a formal criminal investigation. The Met says it has now assessed more than 400 lines of inquiry and identified over 200 potential victims. Not all the strands are tied to Savile, however. Without elaborating, the police said it has also established lines of inquiry involving living people that require formal investigation.
PREVIOUS: New BBC director general George Entwistle is to give evidence before a parliamentary committee next week over the BBC’s handling of the allegations against the former Top Of The Pops host Savile. At the same time, the BBC has been doing some juggling amid the recent controversy. Scheduling changes have been made “in the light of sensitivities surrounding recent events,” The Independent reports and talk shows have avoided the subject while “Chinese walls” have been erected over a planned segment on the Savile matter by BBC1′s investigative current affairs show Panorama. Read More »
BBC Appoints Independent Reviewers In Jimmy Savile Case
The BBC is pressing on with its investigations in the Jimmy Savile scandal that involves serious allegations of child sexual abuse against the late TV host. The corporation named former Court of Appeal judge Dame Janet Smith to lead the independent review into the allegations as they relate to the culture and practices of the BBC during the time Savile worked there and whether today’s policies are up to date. The group also appointed former head of Sky News Nick Pollard to oversee a review into Newsnight, the BBC current affairs program which shelved a segment investigating Savile last December. The Pollard Review will also look at the BBC’s handling of material that might have been of interest to the police or relevant authorities. BBC executive board member Dame Fiona Reynolds said, “These reviews will demonstrate the BBC’s determination to open itself fully to scrutiny from independent experts, emphasising our belief that the basis of the public’s trust is full openness and accountability.”
Australia’s Nine Staves Off Administration With Debt Restructure
Nine Entertainment‘s creditors reached a deal Wednesday to restructure $3.3B in debt. The senior lenders, led by U.S. hedge funds Oaktree Capital and Apollo Global Management, were owed $2.3B. They will now emerge with a 95.5% stake in the company. The mezzanine lenders led by Goldman Sachs, which were owed $1B, will receive a 4.5% stake valued at around $100M. CVC Asia Pacific, which bought Nine from James Packer for $5.5B in debt and equity in 2007, exits with nothing. Nine’s board was desperate to avoid going into receivership, which would have imperilled its $100M a year programming deal with Warner Bros. and contracts to televise National Rugby League matches and Australian Test cricket. “We have a fully capitalized business,” Nine’s chief executive David Gyngell told reporters. – Don Groves Read More »
Biddy Baxter Set For Honor At British Academy Children’s Awards
BAFTA will present TV producer and writer Biddy Baxter with its Special Award at this year’s British Academy Children’s Awards on November 24. The award recognizes an individual’s outstanding contribution to children’s media and the entertainment industry. David Attenborough will make the presentation to Baxter. She first joined the BBC in 1955 as a radio studio manager, later becoming the producer of Listen With Mother and School Radio’s Junior English programs and then of BBC Television Children’s Programmes. She was editor of kids show Blue Peter from 1962-88, receiving 12 BAFTA nominations and winning two statues during her tenure. In 2003, she founded the John Hosier Music Trust to provide scholarships to enable talented but impoverished music students to undertake postgraduate studies.
TrustNordisk Sells ‘Ragnarok’ To China, India, Other Territories
TrustNordisk has concluded further deals on its Norwegian action-adventure pic Ragnarok. The film previously sold to Magnolia in the U.S. and has added China (Melting Culture Ltd.), Indonesia (Pratama Film), Spain (Artwood), Brazil (Mares Filmes LTDA) and Thailand (IPA) to its list of territories. It premiered at Fantastic Fest in Austin and was released locally on October 4. It is currently the top local film of 2013 at the Norwegian box office. Ragnarok stars Kon-Tiki’s Pål Sverre Hagen as an archeologist obsessed with the Oseberg Viking ship. … Read More »
Former BBC director-general, and current CEO of The New York Times Company, Mark Thompson, was grilled by British MPs today over severance packages paid out to senior execs towards the end of his time at the public broadcaster. The BBC is being scrutinized for making £25M in exit payments, some said to be in excess of contractual obligations. Public accounts committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge contended that today’s hearing was not to “bash the BBC,” rather it was designed to “get to the truth.” By the end, she had called the session “a grossly unedifying occasion.”
Thompson was among seven witnesses providing testimony to the committee today, along with BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten. Patten had earlier said he was unaware of some of the payments and that he was “shocked and dismayed” that a £1M payment to Thompson’s former deputy director general Mark Byford in 2010/2011 exceeded his contractual entitlement. Thompson has maintained that the Trust had been kept well-informed. He said his mandate at the time of the Byford payment was to reduce the corporation’s payroll from the top. He characterized it as “value for money” and said he had been under “ferocious pressure” to cut costs. “I do not think we lost the plot, I do think we had done several important things to begin to control payments,” he said, noting that steps taken during his tenure led to a cost-savings at the BBC of £35M. The matter is of some concern to the British public given that it funds the broadcaster via a license fee of £145.50 per year. Read More »
BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten quoted Charles Dickens today in reflecting on the corporation’s last year: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” he said. Patten made the remark in presenting the BBC’s annual report for the year ended March 31. He was specifically referring to the ups and downs of 2012/2013 which included highs like coverage of the summer Olympics and lows like the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal. Speaking of the Savile crisis and of editorial troubles at flagship news magazine Newsnight, Patten said, “The BBC seriously let down both itself and license fee payers. Trust in the institution took a hit as a result, although it has begun to recover.” The fallout from the Savile scandal was costly in more ways than one. It was revealed that the broadcaster spent about £5M on investigations in the wake of the crisis while payments to outgoing execs also jumped. Talent remunieration dropped a little over 1%, but executive pay rose from $2.56M to £4.13M, per The Guardian. Those execs include former general director Mark Thompson who left in September 2012 to be CEO and president of The New York Times Co., and George Entwistle who left in November after just 54 days on the job amid the Savile revelations. Entwistle alone receieved £470,000 in severance plus £107,000 in legal fees. The corporation … Read More »
The BBC said today that it is “appalled” that some of Stuart Hall’s crimes took place in connection with his work at the broadcaster. Hall was charged late last year with indecent assault and last month admitted 14 offenses against 13 girls from 1967-1985, the youngest aged 9. Today, he was sentenced to 15 months in prison. The 83-year-old former TV and radio host read regional news for the BBC in the 1960s and 70s and also hosted BBC One game show It’s A Knockout from 1972–1988. He reported on soccer for BBC Radio 5 Live until his arrest in December. The criminal investigation into Hall was separate from the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal that has plagued the BBC since last fall. (Hall’s lawyer reportedly told the court he had “all of 13″ victims compared to Jimmy Savile’s 1,300.) After the Savile revelations, focus turned to the culture and practices at the BBC in the 60s, 70s and 80s and whether a blind eye was turned to his behavior. The BBC is now conducting an inquiry into the era of Savile’s alleged crimes. It is also pursuing a detailed investigation into Hall’s conduct at the BBC. The Hall inquiry’s findings will be published as part of the Savile review later this year.
The BBC is in hot water again, this time over the handling of the Digital Media Initiative, a project to digitize archive content and make it easily accessible to production staff. The project was cancelled last month, but had already cost the broadcaster and taxpayers nearly £100M. Now, the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) contends that it was misled over the status of the initiative during evidence given in 2011 by the BBC and its then-director general Mark Thompson. At the time, Thompson – who is now CEO of the New York Times Company – told the Committee, “There are many programs that are already being made with DMI, and some have gone to air and are going to air with DMI already working.” But at a hearing yesterday, Committee chair Margaret Hodge said, “We were told that there were bits of this system that were working, that you were using them. That wasn’t true. That just wasn’t true.” She has summoned Thompson to answer questions at a July hearing, The Guardian reports.
In a statement, Thompson said, “When I appeared in front of the PAC… I answered all of the questions from Committee members honestly and in good faith. I did so on the basis of information provided to me at the time by the BBC executives responsible for delivering the project.” Thompson has had a hard time leaving the BBC behind. Just as he was starting his New York Times Co. job in November, he was the subject of scrutiny from the flagship paper, and the British media, over the Jimmy Savile/Newsnight saga and was also interviewed for an inquiry into the scandal which erupted just after he left the broadcaster. Read More »
HBO Books Deals For ‘Behind The Candelabra’ Around The World
HBO Enterprises has lined up a number of international distribution deals for the recently premiered movie Behind The Candelabra. The Liberace biopic starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon has sold to A Company Filmed Entertainment (Central Europe), ARP (France), DCM (Germany, Switzerland), Dutch Filmworks (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg), Entertainment One (United Kingdom), First Distributors Ltd. (Hong Kong), Hollywood Entertainment (Greece), Lusomundo (Portugal), Medusa (Italy), Shaw Renters Pte Ltd. (Singapore), Ster-Kinekor (South Africa), Svensk Filmindustri (Scandinavia), United King Films (Israel), Village Roadshow (Australia) and Tohokushinsha Film Corporation (Japan). The first foreign theatrical release will be June 7 in the UK.
Related: ‘Behind The Candelabra’ Hits Near-Decade Viewership Record
BBC Gets 150-Plus New Sex Abuse Or Harassment Cases Since October
The BBC says it has received more than 150 new allegations of sexual abuse and harassment since the Jimmy Savile case broke in October. The UK pubcaster said 36 of the new accusations came from people who were younger than 18 at the time of the alleged abuse. The broadcaster would not comment on any specific cases — made by more than 80 people, about half of whom still work at the BBC — but it said in a statement that it was “appalled” by the allegations. “We have launched a series of reviews that aim to understand if there are any issues with the current culture of the BBC or the historic culture and practices from as far back as 1965,” the statement said, “to see what lessons can be learned to prevent this happening again.” Read More »
A review of internal practices at the BBC that was convened in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal has found that there have been 37 complaints of sexual harassment at the broadcaster in the past six years, but that current incidents are “rare.” Bullying and other forms of “inappropriate behavior” were found to be “much more prominent,” however. In response, the BBC said it would be overhauling its bullying and harassment policy and will also do away with gag clauses in BBC employment contracts.
The Savile crisis exploded last October, nearly a year after the longtime BBC celebrity TV host died. Since then there have been hundreds of allegations of child sex abuse lodged against Savile with some said to have occured on BBC premises. The report (read it here) calls the crisis “a period which shook the BBC to its core.” But according to the findings, it’s bullying that is the biggest current problem facing the broadcaster. Throughout conversations with nearly 1,000 staff members, the report found there was “a strong undercurrent of fear” Read More »
James Harding resigned as editor of Rupert Murdoch’s The Times neswspaper in December saying, “It has been made clear to me that News Corporation would like to appoint a new editor of The Times.” Reports suggested that Harding’s departure was the result of upset at The Times’ parent company over the paper’s somewhat critical stance during the phone-hacking scandal that had engulfed News Corp.’s UK press arm, News International. When Harding starts his new job as director of news and current affairs at the BBC on August 12, he’ll be joining another company that has seen its share of recent crises.
The BBC’s news division has been plagued by troubles in the past six months including the Jimmy Savile scandal, botched reporting at the flagship Newsnight program and walkouts by journalists. Its Panorama program is drawing fire this week over allegations that London School of Economics students were put in harm’s way during the filming of a documentary in North Korea. Read More »
After the drama that played out in the BBC‘s news division late last year amid the Jimmy Savile and Newsnight crises, the broadcaster has come under further fire regarding one of its news shows. The London School of Economics believes some of its students were endangered during a recent trip to North Korea on which a team of undercover BBC journalists filmed a documentary for the Panorama program. The LSE and its students union have demanded that the BBC withdraw the show which is due to air tonight, but the broadcaster is still going forward. LSE director Craig Calhoun wrote on Twitter today: “Producers of Panorama seem not to have learned any lessons from recent BBC scandals. Consciously chose to endanger LSE students. For what?” In a statement, the BBC said “public interest” in airing the report “is very strong indeed.” It added that such a program “involves some difficult judgements, editorially, practically and ethically and that is why it has been handled at a senior level.” Read More »
BAFTA TV nominations have been announced with Hitchcock film The Girl and the BBC’s Last Tango In Halifax, Accused and Twenty Twelve scoring four nods each. On the international side, Danish/Swedish crime drama The Bridge, which FX is remaking in the States, Showtime’s Homeland and HBO’s Girls and Game Of Thrones were each mentioned. Downton Abbey‘s Hugh Bonneville also has a nod, but not for the hit period drama which scored no nominations. He’s instead in the comedy acting category for Olympics series Twenty Twelve. When combined with the BAFTA TV Craft Awards, which take place on April 28, The Girl has eight nominations, Benedict Cumberbatch-starrer Parade’s End has seven, Accused has six and the BBC’s cancelled The Hour, plus Last Tango In Halifax, Ripper Street and Twenty Twelve each have five. The BAFTA TV awards will be handed out on May 12 in London. A full list of nominees is below:
Ben Whishaw, Richard II (The Hollow Crown)
Derek Jacobi, Last Tango In Halifax
Sean Bean, Accused (Tracie’s Story)
Toby Jones, The Girl
Anne Reid, Last Tango In Halifax
Rebecca Hall, Parade’s End
Sheridan Smith, Mrs Biggs
Sienna Miller, The Girl
Read More »