Chris Patten, who has absorbed some of the criticism for the BBC’s handling of the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse revelations and subsequent Newsnight scandal last year that rocked the UK pubcaster, has resigned from the post he has held since 2011. His contract was set to expire in April 2015. Vice Chairman Diane Coyle will take over as Acting Chairman until a successor is appointed. Patten cited recent successful heart surgery last month as the reason for his departure, saying in a memo that “On the advice of my doctors, however, and having consulted my family and friends, I cannot continue to work at the same full pace as I have done to date, and that I should reduce the range of roles I undertake. On this basis I have decided with great regret to step down from much the most demanding of my roles — that of Chairman of the BBC Trust.”
In the pubcaster’s last annual report ending made public in July, 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” from the sex abuse scandal, for which the broadcaster spent about £5M in investigations. Executive payouts also received criticism after former general director Mark Thompson who left in September 2012 to be CEO and president … Read More »
Britain’s Public Accounts Committee, a Parliamentary oversight group, has strongly criticized the BBC over severance packages paid to senior execs that in the three years to December 2012 totaled £25M ($40.8M). “There was a failure at the most senior levels of the BBC to challenge the actual payments and prevailing culture, in which cronyism was a factor that allowed for the liberal use of other people’s money,” the PAC said today. The BBC is funded by a compulsory £145.50 license fee paid by British households on an annual basis. The committee called some of the justifications provided by the BBC “extraordinary.” The group particularly noted comments made by former BBC director general, Mark Thompson, who is now president of The New York Times Company, when he appeared before it in September. Thompson “claimed that it was necessary to pay his former deputy and long-term colleague Mark Byford an extra £300,000, not because the BBC was obliged to, but to keep Mr Byford ‘fully focused’ instead of ‘taking calls from head hunters’,” the PAC noted. In 2010, Byford was paid two years’ salary, half of it in lieu of notice, and was retained and paid for eight more months. The spokeswoman for the New York Times provided that paper with a statement from Thompson that reads in part: “Severance payments for senior managers working for public organizations are inevitably unpopular and controversial. The sole reason for making these payments was so that the BBC could rapidly reduce the number of senior managers and make far larger savings on behalf of the public… Despite some inflammatory language in the PAC report, there is absolutely no evidence of any wrongdoing by anyone at the BBC in relation to these severance payments.”
New BBC director general Tony Hall, who succeeded George Entwistle after he lasted only 54 days on the job and was forced out over a series of scandals that erupted in late 2012 (and was given a controversial £450,000 payout), has moved to cap severance pay at the broadcaster. The PAC says it welcomes the changes and agrees with Hall that the BBC had “lost the plot” in its management of severance payments in recent years. PAC chairwoman Margaret Hodge said the payments had put the BBC’s reputation at risk. The stinging rebuke comes at a time when the BBC has been making some headway in rebuilding its tarnished reputation after the late 2012 crises that included child sex abuse revelations surrounding Jimmy Savile, and editorial missteps at flagship news program, Newsnight. 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.
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 »
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 Read More »
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 »
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 Read 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 Read More »
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.
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 »
A day after it faced harsh criticism in a review of its response to the Jimmy Savile/Newsnight crisis, the BBC has taken a lambasting from British lawmakers over a severance payment to former director general George Entwistle. The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament slammed the pubcaster for a “cavalier use of public money” when it agreed to pay Entwistle £450,000 ($714,000) upon his November resignation, twice the provisions in his contract. Entwistle resigned amid furor sparked by the BBC’s handling of the Savile sex scandal and questionable editorial decisions made at flagship current affairs program Newsnight. “Public servants should not be rewarded for failure. But that was exactly what happened when the BBC Trust paid off [Entwistle],” the committee said. In response, BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten again defended the move to swiftly resolve Entwistle’s severance, telling BBC Radio 4 today, “The legal advice we had is: if we fought, we would have fetched up a bigger bill.” He also called the committee’s report “shabby.” The committee said it has asked for an official examination of the BBC’s severance payments and benefits for senior managers which have totaled over £4M to 10 people since 2010.
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 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 »
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 today that conclusion of the investigation has been delayed. As a result Thompson, a former BBC director general who had planned to face Times staff questions December 17th and 18th, said those meetings won’t take place until “early in the new year”. Thompson was questioned last week about his role in squelching a news program about the claims against Savile. Content of that interview has not been made public but is expected to be disclosed by the time the inquiry wraps.
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 grilledGeorge 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. Read More »
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.
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 Guardianreports. 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. Read More »