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 said, however, that it delivered £580M in “efficiency savings” in the 2012/2013 financial year. Current director general Tony Hall said the BBC “should be optimistic about the future.”
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”
UPDATE, WRITETHRU, 4:33 AM: The National Union of Journalists and media and entertainment union Bectu have set a 12-hour walkout at the BBC starting at noon March 28. The action coincides with the start of an indefinite work-to-rule period in which employees do no more than the minimum required by their contracts. The move could affect Easter scheduling and will be the second walkout in recent weeks over compulsory layoffs and excessive workloads, which the unions believe are compromising quality journalism and programming. That’s especially notable given the high-profile snafus at flagship news magazine Newsnight late last year as the corporation was dealing with fallout from the Jimmy Savile sex scandal.
Bectu says management is attempting to create “a modern-day BBC sweatshop” while it forges ahead with a cost-cutting initiative which will zap 2,000 jobs across the group. The BBC has been tightening its belt since revenues were cut drastically through 2016 due to a freeze on the TV license fees that help support it. The upcoming action is also taking a stance on bullying and harassment. Employees have given evidence to the ongoing internal review that sprang from the Savile revelations. The union says
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.”
BBC Three Orders Reeva Steenkamp Special
Fast-turnaround specialiast Mentorn Media is at it again. The producer has been commissioned by BBC Three for a quickie doc about the murder of Reeva Steenkamp. Steenkamp’s shooting death has been making headlines since she was killed on Valentine’s Day with star athlete Oscar Pistorius accused of murder. He has pleaded not guilty. Nick London is producing and directing for BBC Three. Rick Edwards, who presented Paralympics coverage for Channel 4, will host. Mentorn’s credits include Ricky Gervais’ An Idiot Abroad for Sky and HBO documentary For Neda. It also recently made fast-turnaround docs about Hurricane Sandy and the Aurora, Colorado massacre. Mentorn’s sister company Passion Distribution is handling sales.
Luketic, Former MGM Exec Sutherland Team On Oz Thriller
Los Angeles-based Australian director Alan White is set to direct Reclaim, a psychological thriller about an American couple who come to Australia to adopt a child after their unborn child dies in a car accident. Due to shoot in Oz later this year, the film is the first from a co-venture between U.S.-based Australian director Robert Luketic and Ian Sutherland’s Origin Productions, who will serve as producers with Brian and Josh Etting of L.A.–based Garlin Pictures. Sutherland, a former EVP of international theatrical distribution for MGM, and Luketic have been developing projects for several years. It will be the first Aussie film for White since 2000’s Risk. The screenplay is by Luke Davies (Candy) and Carmine Gaeta. Casting is underway. Arclight Films, which is selling worldwide rights, pitched the project to buyers at the Berlin festival’s European Film Market.- Don Groves
Global Showbiz Briefs: Savile Claims Hit BBC, Sony TV In Russia, TLC’s ‘Bizarre ER’, Fremantle’s ‘Family Harmony’ And More
BBC Hit With Civil Claims In Jimmy Savile Scandal
A lawyer acting on behalf of 31 victims of the late Jimmy Savile has lodged civil claims for compensation in the high court against the disgraced host’s estate and the BBC over allegations of sexual abuse. Attorney Alan Collins told The Guardian that all claims are against Savile’s estate with “seven or eight” against the BBC itself, which the suits allege has “vicarious liability” in the case. Another lawyer working on behalf of a further 62 victims told Bloomberg that the action was premature, because parties involved had agreed to wait for the results of the police investigation into Savile. “We do not believe the commencement of litigation at this stage to be either necessary or in our clients’ best interest,” she said. – Joe Utichi
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,
UPDATE: Inquiry Finds Sex Abuse/Editorial Scandal Is “One Of The Worst Management Crises” In BBC History
UPDATE, 4:50 AM : A review into the cancellation of a BBC Newsnight program that would have revealed allegations of rampant sexual abuse by late BBC personality Jimmy Savile has been released. In the report, overseen by former Sky News chief Nick Pollard, are strong criticisms of the BBC Trust along with senior BBC executives past and present. The review (read it here) found that the BBC response to the scandal that blew open in October when rival ITV aired a program outlining allegations against Savile, was “chaos and confusion.” Pollard said, “The efforts to get to the truth behind the Savile story proved beyond the combined efforts of the senior management, legal department, corporate communications team and anyone else for well over a month.” Former BBC director general George Entwistle and BBC1 controller Danny Cohen didn’t look hard enough at the issues at the time the Newsnight report was shelved in late 2011 and tributes to Savile aired on BBC1, the review found. This was especially in light of emails that had been sent to Entwistle and Cohen, but apparently not read, that mentioned a “darker side” of Savile. Newsnight editor Peter Rippon is to be replaced but head of news Helen Boaden’s October offer to resign was not accepted and she will return to work tomorrow. Her deputy, Stephen Mitchell, resigned just after the Pollard report
Global Showbiz Briefs: Sony LondonTV Deal, Rebekah Brooks Severance, Jimmy Savile Crimes, Berlin Film Mart
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.
New York Times Co. CEO Mark Thompson, who was interviewed a week ago in London in connection with the BBC scandal involving sex abuse claims against former TV host Jimmy Savile, notified the paper’s staff in a memo …
In a three-hour session this morning, BBC Trust chairman Lord Chris Patten and acting BBC director general Tim Davie answered questions about ongoing troubles at the broadcaster. This was the same panel that grilled George Entwistle in October, two weeks before he was forced to resign as director general. Patten’s and Davie’s turns were somewhat less fraught, although Patten was often taken to task by one BBC-averse MP. Both Patten and Davie owned up to a “bad journalistic error” that led to the running of a recent Newsnight report that falsely implied former Margaret Thatcher adviser Lord McAlpine was a pedophile. However, Davie said he thought cancelling the 60 Minutes-like flagship program would be an “overreaction.” Disciplinary hearings are currently underway with the dozen or so people involved in the report.
Lawyers’ Letter Raises Questions About When Mark Thompson Learned Of Alleged Jimmy Savile Abuse At The BBC: NYT
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.
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.”
The Daily Show host tore into the UK pubcaster last night, skewering the BBC’s handling of the unfolding sex-abuse scandal. He also takes aim at U.S. broadcasters, some of whom have described late TV host and alleged child molester Jimmy Savile as Britain’s Dick Clark.
UK Media Crisis: ITV …
Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage
The ongoing crisis in the British media has drawn in a new player. As the BBC continues to sift through the scandals in its news division, rival broadcaster ITV is facing scrutiny from regulator Ofcom over one of its own news programs. ITV’s Today-style This Morning show will have to answer whether a recent interview with Prime Minister David Cameron breached the broadcasting code by failing to provide a “right of reply” to former Margaret Thatcher adviser Lord McAlpine when he was incorrectly linked to child sex abuse allegations, The Guardian reports. Host Phillip Schofield was forced to apologize after he confronted Cameron with a list of alleged perpetrators he had gleaned in “about three minutes” on the Internet, and the list was briefly made visible to the cameras.
BBC Trust Chairman: “You’ve Only Got To Watch Television In America Or France Or Italy To Know How Good The BBC Is”
Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage
As the BBC scrambles to right the ship in the wake of another disaster at its Newsnight program – and last night’s resignation of director general George Entwistle – BBC Trust chairman Lord Chris Patten made the rounds of the British media on Sunday. Defending the man he appointed, Patten told Sky News that Entwistle left “because there was a bad piece of journalism for which he took responsibility. It was an honorable and decent thing to do. What we need to do now is get a grip of what is happening at the BBC.” Patten told the BBC’s Andrew Marr this morning that the BBC itself was in need of a “thorough, radical, structural overhaul.” But, he also noted, “You’ve only got to watch television in America or France or Italy to know how good the BBC is… The basis for the BBC’s position in this country, is the trust that people have in it.” He added, “If the BBC loses that, it’s over. There are one or two newspapers, Mr. [Rupert] Murdoch’s papers, who would love that, but I think the great British public doesn’t want to see that happen.” The BBC is funded by the British people who pay a fixed license fee for owning a television set, and it has been an enormously trusted and integral part of British life for some 85 years.
This article was reported and written by Deadline’s London correspondent Joe Utichi and International Editor Nancy Tartaglione:
2ND UPDATE, 6:07 PM: With George Entwistle’s surprise resignation from the BBC Saturday night in the UK, new emphasis falls on his predecessor, Mark Thompson, who is due to start as the New York Times Co.’s new CEO on Monday. He’s been the focus of New York Times editorials in recent weeks which have raised questions about details of his involvement in the cancellation of the Newsnight piece on accused sex abuser Jimmy Savile, which fell under his watch.
But Entwistle had certainly borne the brunt of criticism to date. Now, it casts the wrong kind of shadow on Thompson’s new employers, who seem likely to address the issue before Thompson takes up his post. Media analyst Ken Doctor thinks it’s “more likely Thompson doesn’t start on Monday than he does,” he tells Deadline. “He could well be dragged into parliamentary hearings and inquiries, and even if there’s no guilt or blame there, it’ll keep that story alive for a series of months.” It’s attention the Times doesn’t want as it hits a high point, journalistically. “They’ve done a lot of work on their digital strategy and can take pride in their coverage of key events like the election.” Doctor says. “They’ve been able to define themselves as the white knight preservers of journalism, untainted by scandal. In the wake of the phone hacking scandal, they could always contrast themselves with the Murdoch empire. But as of Monday they’ll have a CEO who is essentially using a similar defense to James Murdoch,” that he was too busy to know what was going on. The next 36 hours will prove crucial as we learn whether the ongoing scandal threatens another media organization.