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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 649-i
HOUSE OF COMMONs
taken before the
CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT COMMITTEE
THE BBC'S RESPONSE TO THE JIMMY SAVILE CASE
Tuesday 23 October 2012
GEORGE ENTWISTLE and DAVID JORDAN
Evidence heard in Public Questions 1 - 224
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
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Taken before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee
on Tuesday 23 October 2012
Mr John Whittingdale (Chair)
Mr Ben Bradshaw
Dr Thérèse Coffey
Mr Adrian Sanders
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: George Entwistle, Director-General, BBC, and David Jordan, Director of Editorial Policy and Standards, BBC, gave evidence.
Q1 Chair: Good morning, everybody. This is a special session of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee to look specifically at the recent revelations about the abuse committed by Jimmy Savile during the time when he was employed by the BBC, and also the handling of those revelations by the BBC. I would like to welcome the Director-General, George Entwistle, and the Head of Editorial Policy, David Jordan. I am sorry that the first appearance before this Committee by the Director-General should be in these circumstances, but I would also like to express the thanks of the Committee for your offering to come before us this morning to address what, I am sure you will agree, are very serious concerns.
If I may start off, last night on Panorama, you will have seen John Simpson, that very experienced and respected member of BBC staff, describe this as "the worst crisis that I can remember in my nearly 50 years at the BBC". Would you accept that that is the case?
George Entwistle: There is no question in my mind that what we now know happened is a very, very grave matter indeed. For somebody to have worked for the BBC and at the BBC over a number of decades and have been responsible for what the police describe as "an unprecedented scale" of child sexual exploitation-there is no question in my mind but that this is a very grave matter indeed, and I would seek to show that the response the BBC has made recognises that gravity.
Q2 Chair: I think we would all accept that, but you will also be aware of the concern about the handling of this matter by the BBC. It raises very serious questions about potential suppression to avoid embarrassment, and obviously about some of the allegations broadcast last night on Panorama. Would you accept that this has not been handled well by the BBC in the last few weeks?
George Entwistle: No, I would not accept that. I would accept that there have been times when we have taken longer to do things than I would have liked in a perfect world, but if you look at what we have achieved since the scale of the crisis became clear, I think you would see that we have done much of what we should have done, and have done it in the right order and with proper respect paid to the right authorities. The first thing we did was that I personally made contact with the police, when the scale and credibility of the allegations had started to become clear, and said to them, "This looks like it has the potential to become a criminal matter." I have significant anxiety about action by the BBC in any way compromising, or in some way damaging, potential criminal investigations; that is the first thing I am determined to avoid. Those conversations with the police were characterised initially by them saying to me, "Please do not rush into setting up your own internal review or inquiry of any kind, because we are also worried that you may trespass on our position". So we spent that first week absolutely making sure that our liaison with the police was as good as it could possibly be, and putting our investigations unit and all our internal resources at the service of the police in such a way that they could get to work as fast as possible, and that we would be in a position to help them.
On the Monday of the following week, I went on the Today programme and announced that, when the police were ready, we wanted to have our own internal review. Perhaps I could have made it clearer the previous week that I was prepared to do that, once the police were ready for me to do it, but the key thing for me was to absolutely make sure that I did not do anything that trespassed on the authority and prerogative of the police at that point.
Q3 Chair: We will want to come on to look at the co-operation between the BBC and the police in due course, but in terms of the communication and the handling of this, I am sure you would accept that the BBC’s reputation for trust and integrity is one of its most precious assets. Do you not accept that that is in jeopardy as a result of some of the suggestions that have been made in the last few weeks?
George Entwistle: There is no question but that what Jimmy Savile did, and the way the BBC behaved in those years-that the culture and practices of the BBC seemed to allow Jimmy Savile to do what he did-will raise questions of trust and reputation for us. There is no question about that. This is a gravely serious matter, and one cannot look back at it with anything other than horror, frankly, that his activities went on as long as they did undetected. Of course, that is a matter of grave regret to me, and something that the BBC and I need to demonstrate an absolute determination, here and now, to do everything we can to put right. There is no doubt about that at all in my mind, and I am determined to do that. I believe that the two reviews we have set up have been given the independence and support they need absolutely to get to the bottom of this. I think there is virtue in having established two separate reviews rather than one overall review, because the review that will be done by Dame Janet Smith has decades of culture to look at. The truth is that Jimmy Savile worked at the BBC from the mid-1960s, and there are a great many people we need to try to talk to, to find out whether anybody did know what was going on. What was going on, in terms of how he was managed and how he was overseen? This is a really significant exercise in cultural examination. It is critically important that we do that with absolute thoroughness. At the same time, I recognise there are questions about the way the Newsnight investigation unfolded, and I would seek to answer those much more quickly. Nick Pollard has been given the task of weeks, rather than months, in that regard.
Q4 Chair: We will come on to that as well, but you must accept that in the last 24 hours, a BBC programme carried interviews with a reporter and producer of another BBC programme, in which they publicly disagreed with the explanation given for the dropping of that investigation; the BBC then had to issue a statement saying its original explanation was misleading. That is not exactly a triumph of handling, is it?
George Entwistle: If I can take the correction to the blog first, there is no doubt that it is a matter of regret and embarrassment that the version of events recorded in Peter Rippon’s blog on 2 October did not turn out to be as accurate as it should have been. Again, that is something that should not have happened, and that I regret. Whenever the BBC puts something into the public domain, it has an ongoing obligation to ensure the accuracy of whatever it has put out there, so there is no question in my mind but that we were right to identify the inaccuracies in the blog. It seems to me absolutely the right thing to have done.
When it comes to last night’s Panorama, in a way, although I think the BBC does look mystifying to some outsiders in respect of its capacity to do this kind of thing, I think the fact of last night’s Panorama is something everybody in the BBC should be incredibly proud of. Here is an organisation investigating itself, in its own airtime, on its main TV channel, with appropriate resources given to the task, asking questions of itself that I do not believe any other media organisation on earth would do. The BBC’s capacity to interrogate its own corporate situation, its own corporate priorities, its own corporate handling of things, is unmatched in the world. Rather than regarding last night’s Panorama as a symptom of chaos, I regard last night’s Panorama as a symptom of the fundamental health of the independence of BBC journalism.
Chair: We are going to come back to each of these issues in more detail, but I want to start off by returning to the original main concern that you rightly focused on, which is what happened during the time that Jimmy Savile was employed by the BBC.
Q5 Philip Davies: In view of all the recent allegations, how likely do you think it is that sexual abuse of children and young women was endemic at the BBC?
George Entwistle: I do not yet have enough of a picture to know whether it was endemic. The key question for me is: what was the extent of it? The only possible way to go about answering that question is to look as deeply and as broadly as we would have to do to find out. The remit of Dame Janet Smith’s review is drawn very widely in that regard, in terms of the period of time it can cover and the range it gives her to ask the questions she needs to ask. It is a question to which I am determined we shall have an answer, but I am afraid I do not know the answer yet.
Q6 Philip Davies: We know enough now to know that there was a culture of unacceptable and inappropriate behaviour at the BBC. Jimmy Savile was at the far extreme of that, but it seems perfectly clear that it was not just Jimmy Savile. We have had people coming out virtually on a daily basis to talk of things that happened-them being groped on air by other people-so this is a culture at the BBC. How satisfied are you that this was a problem of culture within the BBC?
George Entwistle: I am convinced it must have been a problem of culture inside the BBC. I do not believe that somebody like Jimmy Savile could do what he did without there being a broader cultural problem. That is why we were so careful to specify "culture and practices" in the terms of reference for Dame Janet’s review. If I could, I should like to distinguish between-and I think it is important to distinguish between-criminal allegations, criminal behaviour, criminal activity of the sort that is alleged about Jimmy Savile, and sexual harassment. It could well be that all these things are part of the same culture, and that is something I hope Dame Janet will give us an understanding of, but it is important to recognise the difference between direct criminal allegations and allegations of sexual harassment.
Q7 Philip Davies: How does the BBC deal with allegations of sexual harassment?
George Entwistle: Do you mean today?
Philip Davies: Yes.
George Entwistle: We have a number of routes available to people who need to address a complaint of sexual harassment. They can speak to their line manager. They can speak to the HR Department. We have a whistleblowing line available, if they do not regard any of those things as possible. Of course, if they are a member of a trade union, they could go to the trade union and expect to be represented there.
Q8 Philip Davies: How does that differ from how the BBC dealt with these things in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s?
George Entwistle: I do not believe there was a culture of awareness, as there is today, that you have to have your systems built to be ready to deal with allegations of sexual harassment. I am not sure that, in the ’60s and ’70s, people would have known what to do with an allegation of sexual harassment. Perhaps more worryingly, I am not sure in the ’60s and ’70s that they would have felt there was anything they could do. What we strive to do today is to be really clear to our staff that there are various routes and options available to them if they need to make a complaint about sexual harassment. Those options have been set out twice in e-mails-I think I am right in saying "twice"; once certainly, and I think there was reference in another all-staff e-mail-since this Savile crisis began, to make sure people know where to go if they have a complaint to make.
Q9 Philip Davies: How many sexual harassment complaints have there been at the BBC each year since the 1960s?
George Entwistle: I am afraid I do not know the answer to that, Mr Davies, but of course I am very happy to try to get the answer for you.
Q10 Philip Davies: Have you not looked into how many complaints there have been about sexual harassment at the BBC? Has that not been of interest to you as the Director-General?
George Entwistle: It is very much of interest to me, at the moment, to ensure that the existing structures are in place to deal with new allegations of sexual harassment. That is what I have been focusing on. Of course, I am very happy to get hold of any data I can to answer your question.
Q11 Philip Davies: I am just surprised that that is not something that you have wanted to find out for yourself, without me having to ask you. I would have thought one of the first things that you would have wanted to do was to say, "Hold on a minute, we have a problem here. This is clearly a cultural problem. Let’s go back and let me see how many complaints we have been having at the BBC about this."
George Entwistle: I have made inquiries about the current scale of activity and complaints, but I have not made those historical inquiries.
Q12 Philip Davies: How many complaints have there been in the last couple of years then, for example?
George Entwistle: I cannot give you a firm answer to that question.
Q13 Philip Davies: You have not even looked at what the current situation is?
George Entwistle: I have asked whether or not there are significant numbers, and I have been assured there are not significant numbers at the moment, but I-
Q14 Philip Davies: What is a significant number? Surely one complaint of sexual harassment is too many in the BBC. When you asked for other significant numbers, what sort of number did you have in mind?
George Entwistle: To be honest, I would be worried if there were anything in excess of five a year.
Q15 Philip Davies: So up to five is okay?
George Entwistle: No, up to five is not okay. I am not suggesting that for a moment. No number of sexual harassment complaints is okay.
Q16 Philip Davies: When you have something like this-you can see that there has been a culture at the BBC of inappropriate behaviour, sexual harassment, and sexual abuse-surely the very first thing you do is want to think, "Well, the first thing we can do is make sure nothing like this is happening at the moment, and that nobody who is currently employed by the BBC is involved in any of this inappropriate behaviour. If there is, I am going to get these people out as a matter of urgency". You do not seem to have done any of that.
George Entwistle: What I have not done is asked the statistical question. I have paid very close attention to the existing structures we have in place, and to making sure that any current complaints, any complaints that are coming through, are being properly dealt with.
Q17 Philip Davies: Have you asked who, currently working for the BBC, has had complaints of sexual harassment made against them?
George Entwistle: We are tracking any complaints made about people currently working for the BBC at the moment; anything that has come out of the current affair is being tracked.
Q18 Philip Davies: It is not a tracking matter, is it? It is a question of whether anybody has made any complaint. It is a factual point; it is not a tracking matter. Have you asked if any people currently employed by the BBC have had complaints of sexual harassment made against them?
George Entwistle: Information is being assembled on exactly that subject, so yes.
Q19 Philip Davies: How long does it take to assemble that kind of information? It is fairly straightforward information to find out.
George Entwistle: The thing is new allegations are being made, and are coming in, and that is what I meant by tracking it.
Q20 Philip Davies: What about the ones that have already been made?
George Entwistle: What I am looking at is all the existing current allegations.
Q21 Philip Davies: What have you found when you have been looking at it? How long does it take to look at them? How many are there? How many are you looking at?
George Entwistle: We are looking at between five and 10 serious allegations relating to activities, but over the whole period in question-the Savile period.
Q22 Philip Davies: What about people who are employed by the BBC now?
George Entwistle: I believe they are included in the numbers I am giving.
Q23 Philip Davies: How many of them are there?
George Entwistle: I do not know.
Philip Davies: You do not know?
George Entwistle: I cannot differentiate between the total numbers we are looking at for historical allegations and current-day allegations.
Q24 Philip Davies: Can I suggest that that is unacceptable, and that you need to be getting a grip of your current organisation? You are the Director-General of this organisation. You have a duty to make sure that the people you are employing are safe to be employed by the BBC. Do you know that it was discussed in some of the programmes that there was an allegation that there was a paedophile ring at the BBC? Have the BBC taken any steps to identify who else was involved in that paedophile ring?
George Entwistle: That is an allegation I have seen made in the last few days. It is something on which we are putting our resources at the disposal of the police. A paedophile ring would be a matter for a police investigation, and we are taking every step we can to ensure that we are able to support the police in investigating that.
Q25 Philip Davies: Who in the BBC decided to bus in young vulnerable girls from institutions to be in the audience of programmes that were being presented by Jimmy Savile?
George Entwistle: I genuinely do not know the answer to that yet. We are trying to pull together all the documentation we can about which managers and so on were in positions of authority at the time Jimmy Savile’s programmes were being made. We are supplying that information to the police, so that they know how to take their investigations forward.
Q26 Philip Davies: Who in the BBC allowed these children to be taken backstage to Jimmy Savile’s dressing room after the shows?
George Entwistle: Mr Davies, we are trying to answer those questions in the same way. Dame Janet Smith’s review has been set up to ask and answer all these questions, and we will give every support we can to her to enable her to do that.
Q27 Philip Davies: With respect, you do not need to set up a review to ask questions like that, do you? Surely you are more than capable of asking that. Surely you do not need somebody else to ask those questions for you.
George Entwistle: We have set up an independent review, for the precise reason that we want the outside world to be assured that we have asked these questions properly. We set up that review within two weeks of the scale of this crisis becoming known. I am absolutely convinced that the right way to get to the bottom of this is to give all the support to Dame Janet Smith now, so that she can answer the sort of question that you are asking.
Q28 Philip Davies: Have you set up the review to allow you to avoid answering these sorts of questions? To try to farm it out-palm it off on somebody else-and say, "It is nothing to do with me; I have set up a review"? We see politicians do this all the time: when in a hole, set up a review and kick it into the long grass. Is that not exactly what the BBC is doing?
George Entwistle: I do not think there is anything about what we have structured by way of the two independent reviews that is designed to avoid answering questions. The whole point of their independence, the way they have been set up, and the support they are given is that it will enable them to ask absolutely any question they want, to go anywhere they want. It is the opposite of an attempt to hide things. It is the opposite of an attempt to cover things up. This is an attempt to make things wide open. The fate of these reviews is that they will be provided direct to the BBC Trust. They will not be edited in any way, except for any legal reasons that are necessary. The completed reviews will be handed to the BBC Trust, alongside BBC management’s proposal to act, and then the Trust will review whether or not we have done what we should have done, but the scope and scale of these reviews is as wide as it could possibly be to get the answers to the questions you ask.
Q29 Philip Davies: Based on what I have just asked, and your lamentable lack of knowledge about any of the questions that I have asked, and coming back to the Chairman’s question, are you still going to maintain that you and the BBC have dealt with this matter as well as you should have done?
George Entwistle: I think that the independent reviews are absolutely the right answer to getting to the bottom of the questions you are asking. There is no question in my mind about that.
Q30 Philip Davies: I did not ask you about that. I said, are you still maintaining-despite your lack of knowledge about any of the issues that I have asked you about, including people currently working at the BBC who may have had sexual harassment complaints made against them-that you personally, and the BBC, have dealt with this matter as well as you should have done?
George Entwistle: I am sorry I cannot answer the detailed questions you have given me on the current status of sexual harassment. I am confident that everything we have done, by way of making sure that our systems and processes are available to people who need to complain, are strong. But no, I think the key way to sort this out is to give the two reviews the chance to do their work.
Q31 Steve Rotheram: Mr Entwistle, it is clear that you do not know whether sexual abuse of children and young women was endemic within the BBC. You do not know how many cases there are, or historically have been, within the organisation, but on 12 October you announced an inquiry that, in your words, "will also examine whether the BBC's child protection, whistle-blowing and bullying and harassment policies and practices are now fit for purpose." Is that true?
George Entwistle: Yes. That is one of the terms of the review, yes.
Q32 Steve Rotheram: From what we now know, 21 days after that announcement, do you think that the current policies towards child protection, whistleblowing and bullying require modification?
George Entwistle: In 2002, we introduced new child protection policies-if I may, I will ask my colleague, David Jordan, to provide some extra detail on this-that were of a completely different scale and order from anything that the BBC has had before. I regard those policies as fit for purpose, but I am not settling for assuming that that is the case. An internal audit was already under way to check that our child protection policies were working properly, and the Trust has asked me to report to them in December, again, to check that all those policies are working as effectively as they should be.
Q33 Steve Rotheram: When will that report back, because it is important that you are able to make a judgment on whether those policies are fit for purpose?
George Entwistle: The internal audit will be completed as soon as possible, which is the first thing I will see, and then I will give my interim report to the Trust in December.
Q34 Steve Rotheram: In your time at the BBC, have you ever personally investigated or been part of programme teams that have investigated child abuse and paedophile rings?
George Entwistle: Just reflecting on my time as a journalist, I do not believe so. I do not recall any.
Q35 Steve Rotheram: You are aware of investigations into child abuse and paedophile rings. Other than on Newsnight, are there any other programmes that have failed to be broadcast?
George Entwistle: Not that I am aware of.
Q36 Steve Rotheram: Can you recall any documentaries or current affairs investigations that exposed paedophile rings during your 23 years at the corporation?
George Entwistle: Yes, I remember a documentary series-I would struggle to say exactly when it was; I think it was probably in the 1990s-that focused on paedophile activity.
Q37 Steve Rotheram: Is that The Secret Life of a Paedophile?
George Entwistle: Yes.
David Jordan: There have been others as well. For example, there was a Panorama investigation into bail hostels, which centred on paedophiles who were in bail hostels at the time. That was much more recent.
Q38 Steve Rotheram: The Secret Life of a Paedophile exposed, obviously, the secret life of so-called child protection expert Peter Righton. You are aware of that story? You do recall it?
George Entwistle: Yes.
Q39 Steve Rotheram: It was suggested in the programme that Righton operated a network of paedophiles, some of whom were connected to powerful people in government and other professions. Therefore, do you think it is ironic that the institution that produced a documentary exposing the secret modus operandi of career paedophiles could not apply the same insight into its own celebrity paedophile, Mr Savile?
George Entwistle: As far as I have been able to tell so far, Mr Savile prosecuted his disgusting activities in a manner that was very successfully and skilfully concealed. Experts in paedophile behaviour have pointed out that this is very often the case. The case in the United States of Jerry Sandusky is one that has been covered recently. These people build very long-range plans to put them in contact with their targets, and these things are institutionally, it seems, very difficult to deal with.
Q40 Steve Rotheram: In response to the Chair’s opening question, you said, and I quote, that the "culture and practices of the BBC" seemed to allow Jimmy Savile to get away with it. Is this not the crux of the problem now? He has got away with it. Do you think that the current child protection, whistleblowing, bullying and harassment programmes will prohibit a Jimmy Savile in the future from carrying out these heinous crimes?
George Entwistle: I believe that we have good policies, but I am currently checking them to make sure they are good as they need to be. As for Jimmy Savile, of course he is dead now, so to that extent, he has got away with it, but I do not think that can be said or seen to be the end of it, in any sense. That is why we are asking Dame Janet Smith to look at this period as thoroughly as she can, and understand how that happened and how managerial oversight did fail.
David Jordan: The way in which child protection policies operate now is very, very different from the way in which they operated in the 1960s and 1970s-if, indeed, they operated at all. The BBC brought in a policy in 1994 across the whole of the BBC-in 1992 in CBBC-following on initially from Government legislation that introduced CRB checks, and then following on from the awful events in Soham, to ensure that a number of steps will be taken whenever children enter the BBC. Every BBC division has a nominated manager that is responsible for child protection. Every child that comes into the BBC has to be supervised by a parent, a guardian, or a chaperone. There is a risk assessment every time children come into programmes-that is, come into the audience of programmes, not participate in them. There is a legislative framework that operates around children who are involved, who are participating in programmes themselves, which is the child licensing arrangements. Those in Scotland are slightly different from those in England and Wales, but they apply everywhere. There is a whole series of measures that are taken now to ensure that children come into and leave the BBC safely. The sorts of things that happened, and that Mr Davies referred to, where people were allowed to be taken into the dressing rooms of stars in the BBC, as is alleged, should not and could not happen today under these arrangements. The whole situation has been transformed, as compared with the 1960s and 1970s.
George Entwistle: It is provisions like this that give me the confidence that we do have a much stricter regime in place now, but as I say, I am not prepared to take that on trust, and we are checking that the operation of these policies is as good as it should be.
Q41 Steve Rotheram: Further to the specific question that Mr Davies asked, you are aware of further allegations of this sort of unacceptable behaviour in the BBC. Can you confirm that you believe that to be between five and 10?
George Entwistle: No, I must clarify what I said there. My guess is that an institution of the BBC’s size might expect to have that many in a year. The number of allegations we are looking at, at the moment-and this is historical-is, I would have thought, between eight and 10.
Q42 Steve Rotheram: Is that eight and 10 individuals, and not individual cases?
George Entwistle: Individuals.
David Jordan: Can I reassure you on that point as well? If any of the allegations are current, and involve anybody still working at the BBC, we have taken steps to make sure that-
George Entwistle: They go straight to the police.
David Jordan:-they go straight to the police, and that if anybody is still operating in areas where they can come into contact with children or young people, or people who might be the targets of abuse, action is taken about that. There has not been the need to take that action so far, but every case is scrutinised very carefully to make sure that we cannot be in a position where someone accused of any form of sexual abuse is still working in a situation that would allow them to continue to do so. That is being done actively.
George Entwistle: That is what I meant by "tracking". We are collating any names there are centrally. We are making an immediate assessment of whether there is a potential criminal dimension, and referring those immediately to the police.
Q43 Steve Rotheram: That has negated the question that I had on that particular issue. In your 23 years at the corporation, with your vast experience of current affairs and documentaries, are you aware of any investigation that linked high-ranking politicians and/or their advisors to child abuse?
George Entwistle: I cannot recall that. Again, my colleague, David Jordan, in editorial policy, may have seen something of that kind. I cannot recall anything like that.
David Jordan: I do not recall.
Q44 Mr Sanders: Would it possible for you to talk through what you are doing as an organisation to uncover the extent of abuse and to identify abusers?
George Entwistle: Yes. The key thing to establish here is the relationship between the Dame Janet Smith review, and the BBC resources that we have put at the disposal of the Dame Janet Smith review. The Smith review is already under way. The secretariat of that review is already reviewing papers and documents that we have supplied to them. From here on in, our approach is to make sure that we supply in advance absolutely anything we think may be useful to them that we can identify. Of course, anything that they ask us for, we also supply as fast as we can.
Q45 Mr Sanders: How have you involved former-presumably mostly retired-BBC employees in your attempts to encourage people to come forward with any knowledge that might be helpful?
George Entwistle: In the first week I wrote an internal message, which was given wide external coverage, calling on absolutely anybody-any BBC employee, past or present, who has any insight to give into these affairs-to come forward and make themselves available, either to the inquiries or to the BBC, so that we can connect with the relevant review. I made the same request at my press conference.
Q46 Mr Sanders: You can understand that there may be a reluctance of people, past and present, to come forward, because it may require them to admit to having not come forward earlier. Is there any whistleblowing policy in place for existing staff, and have you made it clear that there is strict confidentiality, perhaps, that could be made available to former employees coming forward?
George Entwistle: There is a whistleblowing line that operates within the BBC, and we have re-publicised that on a couple of occasions over the last two weeks. We have made clear to everybody that that represents an entirely secure resort to them. I take your point, and I think that there is something we can make more public, or more broadly known, so that former employees could take advantage of that. I think that is a good idea, and we will follow it up.
Q47 Mr Sanders: The interview last night-the Karin Ward interview from 2011-had you seen that interview before it was broadcast last night?
George Entwistle: No, I had not.
Q48 Mr Sanders: Had you heard a recording of the interview?
George Entwistle: No, I had not.
Q49 Mr Sanders: Had you read a transcript of the interview?
George Entwistle: No, I had not.
Q50 Mr Sanders: Had anyone told you about the content of the interview?
George Entwistle: I knew the interview existed. I became aware in the last few weeks that the interview existed, and that serious allegations were made.
Q51 Mr Sanders: Can I ask some specific questions in relation to Top of the Pops?
George Entwistle: Yes.
Q52 Mr Sanders: Why did the BBC not have an age restriction on Top of the Pops audiences until 1971?
George Entwistle: I have not been able to find any documentation that explained what the BBC’s approach to age limits on the Top of the Pops audience in the 1960s and 1970s was. What we know is that there was a change from 15 to 16 in the early 1970s, but we are not able to to make a direct causal link between anything that happened and that change, through any documentation. As I understand it, around that time there was a News of the World investigation into the activities of BBC DJs, and there was another case that may have played a part in giving rise to that age change, but we have not been able to establish any direct causal connection between the two.
Q53 Mr Sanders: So there was an age limit?
George Entwistle: There was an age limit of 15, but it was increased to 16.
Q54 Mr Sanders: It was increased to the age of consent?
George Entwistle: In 1971.
David Jordan: Mr Sanders, of course you understand that, in order to get to do things that maybe they should not be doing, sometimes young people attempt to lie about their ages. At that time there was no tradition of asking people for their passports or other forms of information to prove it. There was an age limit, but-bars, clubs and others sometimes have the same problem-it was not always possible to be absolutely certain that people were telling the truth about their ages at that time.
Q55 Mr Sanders: I accept that point. The other case that you refer to is, presumably, the tragic suicide of a 15-year-old girl who had been a dancer on Top of the Pops. In a press report, it said that in her suicide note she had named a string of radio disc jockeys and other show-business personalities-all household names-who she claimed had used her. Did the BBC undertake any kind of investigation at that time? What was the extent of that investigation?
George Entwistle: I have not been able to find any record of an investigation carried out at the BBC at that time. I should make it clear that all the searches we are doing through BBC records are ongoing. We are looking for any places there might be reserves of documents that we have not yet found, and we are determined to make sure that we furnish everything we do find to the Dame Janet Smith review.
Q56 Mr Sanders: There was also a report that the BBC had legal advice at that time. Presumably, there would be documentation of the legal advice at that time. Are you able to uncover that and put that at the service of the inquiries that are taking place?
George Entwistle: We will of course do that, if we are able to find anything. I am not aware that we have yet found anything in relation to that.
Q57 Mr Sanders: There is a real concern that-in relation to trying to discover who did what and when-there is a danger of persons within the BBC being accused of wilful blindness. Is that something that concerns you?
George Entwistle: I would be concerned about any allegation of improper behaviour in respect of the people who find themselves the subject of this review, of course.
Q58 Dr Coffey: My colleagues and I on the Committee will later get into the editorial reasons why Peter Rippon decided to pull the story, but there were three chilling words used last night-reported to be those used by Mr Rippon-which I thought reflected very badly on the culture. Of course, I am referring to "just the women". To give the wider quote, "our sources so far are just the women and a second-hand briefing". To me-this is a comment made just a few months ago-"just the women" actually just reflects the culture of deciding whether sexual abuse allegations should be recognised or not. Actually, the culture has not changed at all.
George Entwistle: On the face of it, of course, that phrase is not in the least defensible. I do believe the culture has changed since the 1970s and 1980s, but I am not convinced that it has changed as much as it should have. That takes me to the third strand of work I announced at my press conference on 12 October, when I talked about wanting to bring in an external expert or advisor who would help us with any ongoing allegations of sexual harassment, and effectively provide an external pair of eyes for me, in the broader sense, with regard to how women are treated at the BBC. In a number of things I have said already in public, I have said that this is something the BBC simply has to get right, and I am not sure that we do have it right in every respect at the moment. I am in a position to give this news to the Committee today: we have asked Dinah Rose QC to come and work with us to look at how our handling of sexual harassment charges of any kind is working, and to look at cases individually to see if there are any common threads or themes that we need to be alive to, and then to work with me on the question of making sure our culture is everything that it should be.
Q59 Dr Coffey: Do you think those words, "just the women", will encourage anyone now to come forward to the editor of Newsnight with any potential whistleblowing allegations? I am not talking necessarily about members of staff, but members of the public. Or will they go to ITV Exposure instead, which was happy to go on the words of "just the women"?
George Entwistle: I desperately hope people will not be put off, because I think a great deal of good and consistent BBC journalism, across a wide range, proves that that is not an attitude we have, but I understand why you found the phrase disturbing.
Dr Coffey: Also, who would women at the BBC now approach, in that particular area? I know we are going to come on to other reasons later. I will leave it there, Mr Chairman.
Chair: We will now look in closer detail at the Newsnight investigation.
Q60 Mr Bradshaw: I draw attention to the declaration I made when I joined this Committee: my partner works for the BBC.
Mr Entwistle, do you now accept, in the light of last night’s Panorama, that the decision to drop the Newsnight investigation was a catastrophic mistake?
George Entwistle: I came away from Panorama firmly of the view that that investigation-even if, in the judgment of the editor, it was not ready for transmission at the point when he was looking at it-should have been allowed to continue.
Q61 Mr Bradshaw: Why did it take three weeks for the BBC to realise that the account given by Mr Rippon was inaccurate and incomplete?
George Entwistle: When you want to find out why a programme has done an investigation, in my long experience at the BBC, the person you go to is the editor of the programme containing that investigation, or the commissioning editor of that investigation, because they should know why they commissioned the piece, and they should have the most complete picture of why they commissioned the piece. What became clear to us, after the blog was published, was that what had happened on Newsnight was that it seemed there was a significant difference of opinion between the people working on the investigation and the editor, Peter Rippon, who commissioned the investigation. That difference of opinion was made clear to me relatively soon after the blog was published, the following week. At that point-although I would normally absolutely expect to be able to get, from the editor of a programme, a complete and full picture of what had been going on, on that programme-I thought I needed to get to the bottom of why there seemed to be a difference of opinion, and there definitely seems to me to have been a breakdown in communication on Newsnight in that regard, so I-
Q62 Mr Bradshaw: What did you do to get to the bottom of it?
George Entwistle: I asked my colleague, Ken MacQuarrie, who sits on the BBC’s management board, to speak to the two journalists involved, to get a sense of what they thought had happened.
Q63 Mr Bradshaw: This was nearly three weeks ago, and the BBC only changed its story yesterday in light of the Panorama programme?
George Entwistle: Ken MacQuarrie spoke to the two journalists in question and then wrote me a note, and this takes us to the middle of the week ending the 12th. I read that note and I no longer felt confident that getting a full understanding of what had happened on Newsnight would be possible to do inside the BBC. I concluded from that that I needed to move to an external review of what was happening on Newsnight to achieve that.
Q64 Mr Bradshaw: Did you ever consider talking to Liz McKean and Meirion Jones? These are ex-colleagues of yours.
George Entwistle: They are ex-colleagues of mine, and I thought it was important, in my position as Director-General, to be able to maintain sufficient distance from any allegations people were making, and any accounts people were giving, and to be allowed to review them properly myself, rather than being pulled into them, which is why I asked Mr MacQuarrie to have those conversations on my behalf.
Q65 Mr Bradshaw: What about your news managers? What about Helen Boaden and her deputy? Surely it is their job to get to the bottom of this dispute very, very quickly.
George Entwistle: My anxiety, and the reason I asked Mr MacQuarrie to do it, was that the journalists on Newsnight may have things to say about the overall chain of news management that they would not feel able to say to news management. That was why I wanted to create a separate chance for them to do that.
Q66 Mr Bradshaw: Do you think that your news managers behaved properly in this regard?
George Entwistle: I was not in any sense making a judgment then about how they had behaved. I wanted to be absolutely clear to the people involved that they should have a chance to speak to somebody who would stand apart from the entire story on Newsnight, and be able to give me an account of what had happened. After I received the Ken MacQuarrie note, we began work on pulling together more evidence, basically-documents, e-mails and so on-relating to the Newsnight investigation, with a view to us being able to supply them to the review that we had announced, but also with a view to trying to get to the bottom of what really had happened on the programme. It was in the process of having those conversations with people, pulling the documentation together and cross-checking those two accounts, that it became clear to us that there were inaccuracies in the blog.
Q67 Mr Bradshaw: Is not the most important job of a senior manager and of a Director-General, when a crisis hits the BBC like this, to establish the facts as quickly as possible, get them out and act decisively on them? David Jordan spent a whole day touring television studios, still peddling the Peter Rippon defence, after you had received the emails from Liz McKean and from Meirion.
George Entwistle: I had absolutely to keep alive in my mind the possibility that Peter Rippon’s version of events was accurate. Peter Rippon was, after all, the editor of the programme. It seems to me, in the end, the only person who knows for certain what he has commissioned, or at least could be expected to know for certain what he has commissioned, is the editor of the programme, so it was not a question of suddenly realising that one account was definitely wrong and some other accounts might be right. It was a question of trying to balance the various accounts we had, to work out where the truth lay. Invaluable in that regard was the documentation and the e-mails we managed to pull together, which allowed us to get to the view we eventually got to-that the blog needed changing. We did that absolutely as fast as we could. It was difficult, evidence-based work, but I was determined, having published what I now know to be one inaccurate account of what had happened, that we should not do that again. It had to be right.
Q68 Mr Bradshaw: Are you satisfied that the account that the BBC is currently publishing, as we meet here today, is accurate?
George Entwistle: To the best of the evidence we have been able to assemble, we believe the account we published today is accurate.
Q69 Mr Bradshaw: One of Peter Rippon’s central planks of argument was that the main witness for the Newsnight investigation had gone to the police, and the police had not acted further. That is denied by the people behind the investigation. Karin never went to the police. That has still not been corrected, as far as I am aware.
George Entwistle: No. I think we have pointed out in the correction to the blog that the blog says that all women spoken to in the programme had contacted the police independently already. It appears that, in some cases, women had not spoken to the police, and the police were not aware of all allegations.
Q70 Mr Bradshaw: Given that this was your main witness, and Peter Rippon had built part of his defence for dropping the investigation, would it not be sensible correct that error here now?
George Entwistle: I believe we are being clear here that the blog, as published, was not accurate, and we are being clear about the nature of that inaccuracy.
Q71 Mr Bradshaw: Why did the BBC decide last night not to include the e-mail that Liz McKean sent a friend, which referred to a long political chain, in the context of a conversation she had had with Peter Rippon, when this e-mail was used in Channel 4 News? It is widely reported in the papers today.
George Entwistle: I need to explain my relationship with last night’s Panorama to give you an insight into that. As soon as it was clear that Panorama were going to be investigating the BBC-something that is absolutely in their right to decide to do-we recognised that the standard editorial chain, up through news and finally to the Director-General as editor-in-chief, could not be allowed to stand because of the questions that were openly being asked about people inside the news management chain, and about me, and my involvement. We set up a completely separate editorial management chain for that film, and a separate legal referral chain for that film, over which I had no oversight, so I cannot answer any detailed questions about the handling of journalism in that film because I was not responsible for them. My understanding, which is gleaned from reading the papers, is that a legal judgment was taken, and legal judgments of that kind are made in respect of investigations of that kind.
Q72 Mr Bradshaw: The BBC’s lawyers took a different view from Channel 4’s lawyers and everyone else’s lawyers?
George Entwistle: It is possible for lawyers to differ in that regard.
Q73 Mr Bradshaw: But is that not absolutely critical, because this "long political chain" implies that there was some kind of cover-up-that Peter Rippon was discussing this with his superiors in the BBC?
George Entwistle: Mr Bradshaw, I genuinely do not know what Peter Rippon meant by "long political chain".
Q74 Mr Bradshaw: Have you asked Mr Rippon about any conversations he had with BBC colleagues above him in the food chain about the decision to drop the Newsnight investigation?
George Entwistle: No. I have observed the chain of command in this regard, so I have spoken to the Director of News and the-
Q75 Mr Bradshaw: Has Helen Boaden asked him that question?
George Entwistle: I do not know for certain whether she has or not.
Q76 Mr Bradshaw: Is that not a critical question to ask the editor of the programme-whether he had conversations? Given that the BBC is still insisting that there was no pressure put on him and that there was no cover-up, is not one of the basic questions? You go to the editor and say, "What conversations did you have with Helen Boaden? What conversations did you have with Steve Mitchell?".
George Entwistle: That is something that Steve Mitchell and Helen Boaden have done inside news.
Q77 Mr Bradshaw: They have admitted to having conversations with Peter Rippon about the Newsnight investigation?
George Entwistle: As I understand it, they spoke to Peter Rippon during the investigation.
Q78 Mr Bradshaw: Do you know what the nature of those conversations was?
George Entwistle: I understand that Helen’s only conversation with Peter, in respect of the Newsnight investigation, was to remind him that, just because Jimmy Savile was dead, it did not mean that there could be any skimping in journalistic standards, and that the usual BBC standards would apply.
Q79 Mr Bradshaw: Could that not have been interpreted by Peter Rippon as pressure from above to drop the investigation?
George Entwistle: I would say that I do not regard it as an inappropriate point, in any sense, to make to an editor. BBC journalistic standards are exactly what Helen is there to support.
David Jordan: Can I just clarify one thing before we move on? You mentioned some interviews I did. I should just be clear that the Director-General did not receive any e-mails until after I had done those interviews. A misimpression was given on the Panorama programme last night that I did an interview after an e-mail had been sent to the Director-General questioning his version. Actually, that interview was pre-recorded on Friday afternoon before the e-mail was sent to the Director-General.
Q80 Mr Bradshaw: You must have been aware, Mr Jordan, that Newsnight staff were unhappy about the Peter Rippon version of events. There had been a delegation led by the deputy editors of Newsnight to a senior news manager at the BBC to say that the official BBC version was wrong. Are you telling me you did not know about that?
David Jordan: Not initially. When I-
Q81 Mr Bradshaw: Steve Mitchell did not tell you?
David Jordan: Not initially, which is why I reflected the version of the editor of the programme in the interviews I did, not realising that there was a major dispute at the heart of Newsnight about what the aspects of that were about.
Q82 Mr Bradshaw: Have you both been seriously let down by BBC news managers?
George Entwistle: I do not think it is right to make that judgment now. The reviews are there to shed light on every aspect of this. Only once the reviews have heard evidence from all the relevant people, and made a study of all the documentation, will we know exactly what happened. That is why I felt it was essential to bring an external pair of eyes to bear on this.
Q83 Damian Collins: There seem to be a lot of very important questions you have not asked your colleagues. Does this reflect a broader management culture problem at the BBC?
George Entwistle: No. What I think it reflects is the way we operate through the chain of command. The colleague I speak to, when I want to find out what is going on in the Department, is the Divisional Director. The Divisional Directors of the BBC report to the Director-General. If I want to find out what has happened on a programme, I ask the Divisional Director to go and make those inquiries on my behalf.
Q84 Damian Collins: That is all well and good. I am sure most people outside the BBC do not really understand why you would insist on working that way in the middle of what one of your senior colleagues has called the worst crisis to affect the corporation in 50 years. Would it not have been your first responsibility to have seen the script of the Newsnight programme, to see exactly what they had before putting your name to a corporate position that turned out to be completely untrue?
George Entwistle: No. I do not think that would have been right. The reason I do not think it would have been right is that, in the end, any internal disciplinary matter at the BBC needs to be referred up to a point that has not been involved in that disciplinary matter. It seemed to me, as this process unfolded, that for some time there was a possibility that we might need to make disciplinary inquiries into what had taken place, and that it was critical that the chain of command was observed, keeping the Director-General in reserve and able to look at the review or any challenge to those processes. That is the way big organisations work. I do not believe it would have been appropriate for me to do a detailed examination of what were contended over documents myself, for fear that I would simply become irrevocably embroiled in that and unable to exercise the authority I am here to exercise as Director-General.
Q85 Damian Collins: You will see that the concern is not just about the change of language or small details, but actually a concern that the BBC’s initial version of events-Mr Rippon’s initial view he gave as to why the programme had not been right-made it sound like there was no real new information; it was just going over ground that had been covered in a police investigation that had not gone anywhere, and that was the reason why the programme was not broadcast. In fact, the Newsnight investigation team had new witness statements, and new evidence about crimes committed on BBC property. There is a material difference from the version of events Mr Rippon initially gave.
George Entwistle: There is, and that goes to the reason why we have not taken the blog down, but issued corrections to the inaccuracies it contained. There is no doubt in my mind that for us to have published a blog with these inaccurate details in it is deeply regrettable. But the key point was to establish what those inaccuracies were and publish that account, which is what we have done.
Q86 Damian Collins: Were you angry when you found out about this?
George Entwistle: I was very disappointed indeed that the blog should have turned out to have been as inaccurate as it was. Of course I was.
Q87 Damian Collins: Maybe I would have expected a slightly rawer emotion than being "very disappointed indeed", because you have been very badly let down and exposed by a senior colleague.
George Entwistle: What I relied upon is something that, in my BBC career, I have always been able to rely on, which is the editor of a programme having a full grip and understanding of an investigation they were in charge of. On this occasion, it does not seem to have been the case, and that is disappointing.
Q88 Damian Collins: My concern, from what you have said, and looking forward to the investigations the BBC has commissioned, is we clearly have the situation where entirely the wrong thing has happened, but all the BBC procedures have been followed, so no one is too exercised about it.
George Entwistle: There is one matter here that I have given considerable thought to, and it goes to the question of what should happen to an investigation that does not end up being broadcast but, nonetheless, makes discoveries that are important and should be paid attention to. David Jordan, who is in charge of editorial policy at the BBC, and I have talked about a potential amendment to our guidelines that makes clear to people what obligations they might have in respect of an investigation that does not, for whatever reason-and in the end that reason will only ever be an editor’s judgment about whether it should-proceed to air, and what should happen to any journalism done in the course of that.
Q89 Damian Collins: Are you saying that it would ultimately always have been the editor of Newsnight’s decision to run that programme or not?
George Entwistle: Unless he had referred it to his line manager, yes, it would always have been his decision. Editors of BBC programmes are put in a position where they make the decision about what they run. It is their responsibility. We devolve that authority down to them. They are entitled to refer a demanding editorial position to their line manager if they want to.
Q90 Damian Collins: What is the point of the Director-General being the editor-in-chief if he does not have editorial control over what is going out in the company’s name?
George Entwistle: The Director-General has editorial responsibility and accountability for what goes out in his name, but he does not have direct editorial control. Editorial control is devolved throughout the BBC. The BBC is a big organisation journalistically. There are a great many different programmes and strains of journalism where actual responsibility for the journalism is devolved down to them. I think that is appropriate.
Q91 Damian Collins: A programme being made by one of the BBC’s flagship news programmes was bringing forward very serious criminal allegations about someone who was an icon for children in this country-created as an icon by the BBC, an icon for very vulnerable people as a result of his celebrity BBC status. Would the creation of a programme like that, or even the preparation for broadcast of a programme like that, not routinely have gone to the editor-in-chief for consideration of whether he wished it to go?
George Entwistle: No, it would not routinely have gone to the editor-in-chief. I would have expected it to be referred to the line manager, as I understand it was. I might have expected the Divisional Director to be made aware; in this case, I understand that they were. But I would not necessarily have expected it to be referred to the editor-in-chief. David will be able to provide a perspective on this because he has worked across the whole range of the BBC, but the editor-in-chief becomes involved in relatively few final editorial decisions.
Q92 Damian Collins: I can understand that. There is enormous output of programming, but you would think this might be one. If this did not qualify, I wonder what the bar is.
David Jordan: In all truthfulness, if it had not reached the Director-General level it would certainly have reached Divisional Director level, had the investigation proceeded to a position in which it was going to be transmitted. At that point, it would have been referred upwards, particularly if it was going to have the sort of-
Q93 Damian Collins: What am I missing, though? At what point does that kick in? We know from the e-mails that the editor had asked his team to prepare for transmission and the BBC press office had been briefed about the likely content of the programme. Does it go up the organisation 10 minutes before air time to say, "Do you want to press the button to stop it or not?"
David Jordan: Preparations were made, but it was not actually commissioned. Had it been commissioned and was it to proceed to transmission, in the way that the editor had originally planned, then this probably would have been referred to various senior managers at the BBC. The most delicate, the most significant, the most sensitive investigations, some of the biggest ones that I have been involved in, do eventually get up to Director level, sometimes even to Director-General level. For example, I was in charge of the investigation into Robert Maxwell when I was on Panorama. That investigation went up to and included the Deputy Director-General at the time. So, some of the most significant, some of the most sensitive, some of the most potentially defamatory, biggest investigations would get to that point, but only if you were intending to proceed with them. A lot of investigations get stood up and stood down in the course of programmes throughout the year and, if they are not being proceeded with, they would not normally go up the line management chain.
Q94 Damian Collins: We know in this case Newsnight was certainly preparing for broadcast within a matter of weeks, and so it would have been late in the day, if it had reached that far. From what you are saying, it may be totally proper for this never to have gone to the Director-General for a decision before it went to air.
George Entwistle: The thing about Newsnight, Mr Collins, is that because rather than having individual slots for a documentary, you own that chunk of BBC Two, you have an enormous amount of flexibility about which programme you choose to put the investigation into. It is very rarely the case that an editor of Newsnight would say, "I am intending such and such a thing, definitely in a few weeks’ time for that date". It would be intended for that week, and they might work out much closer to the time which day it might be expected to go on. I am inferring here, from what I saw on Panorama last night, that Mr Rippon’s enthusiasm for the idea was higher at one stage and then became lower. Therefore, I would not necessarily expect him to have committed-
Q95 Damian Collins: But would you like to know why?
George Entwistle: Absolutely so. Therefore, you would not necessarily have expected him to be committed to a date or, therefore, committed to a referral up in a particular timescale.
Q96 Damian Collins: From some of the contributions to the Panorama programme last night, and from some of the things you said even today, I think it sounds strange that not only was the programme considered not ready for broadcast, but the investigation was dropped altogether, and nothing was done as a result of the investigation that had taken place. Do you not find that strange?
George Entwistle: On the basis of what I now know, I am surprised that nothing further happened with it. It seems to me entirely appropriate for an editor to decide, for reasons in the end that he or she has to own, that they are not ready to proceed with an idea. There was clearly some good journalistic material here and, even if there was no prospect of immediate transmission, a continued investigation might have been appropriate.
Q97 Damian Collins: It is more than good journalistic material; there were eye-witness statements about a criminal offence, and they were kept in a locker at the BBC until what you saw of it yourself last night.
George Entwistle: There are two separate points there, though. Journalistically, one of the questions that it is important for the Pollard review to ask is: why was the investigation stopped, rather than being allowed to continue? Then there is the question of what should have happened, corporately, with the information that investigation had discovered.
Q98 Damian Collins: That is not included in the terms of reference of your investigations. Will that be included now?
George Entwistle: No, I understand it to be included. The management of the Newsnight investigation, it seems to me, covers the aftermath of the Newsnight investigation as well as-
Q99 Damian Collins: It will cover the entire 10-month period from the decision not to broadcast through to the beginning of this month?
George Entwistle: Being plain, we have made it clear to Nick Pollard that he is allowed to go wherever his investigation takes him, so yes.
Q100 Chair: Just on that point, I have here a statement issued by BBC News and Current Affairs, from a publicist to a journalist making inquiries on 13 October, which begins, "The independent review will not revisit the Newsnight Editor’s decision".
George Entwistle: No. I think that was a mis-provision. We have said to Nick Pollard that he is entitled to look at anything he needs to look at.
Q101 Chair: So the News and Current Affairs Department, in stating that, were wrong?
George Entwistle: I do not think that is right.
Q102 Damian Collins: If it were not for ITV, there might have been no investigations now. There may not have been an escalation of awareness of the case against Jimmy Savile. We might not have been sitting in this room.
George Entwistle: Of course I accept that.
Q103 Damian Collins: Is that a source of huge regret for you, as head of the BBC?
George Entwistle: Yes. It is a matter of great regret to me.
Q104 Paul Farrelly: I remember reading the blog about three weeks ago, before I was asked to do an interview on BBC Radio Stoke. The blog was clearly written to try to shoot down some of the allegations that it was expected that ITV might level against the BBC, in particular regarding an alleged cover-up. You did not have to be a card-carrying member of the National Union of Journalists to realise that the blog begged more questions than it answered, for the very simple journalistic fact that the main story about Jimmy Savile being a paedophile had not been aired. There was not an angle regarding whether the CPS or the police had decided to pursue a prosecution, or the reasons for dropping it. That central journalistic fact does not seem to have set people who are journalists at the BBC asking more questions. Why do you think that was?
George Entwistle: The state of knowledge at that stage at the BBC was that Peter Rippon, with a full understanding of everything that had been available to him, had made the decision he had made about the investigation not proceeding. As I understand it, the principal purpose of the blog was to address the particularly prevalent allegation, at that stage, that he had come under unreasonable managerial pressure to drop the investigation. Mr Rippon was clear in that blog-and I believe absolutely stands by that-that he did not come under managerial pressure; well, no inappropriate managerial pressure.
Q105 Paul Farrelly: But the blog said lots of other things that raised obvious questions that did not seem to be asked.
George Entwistle: Can you spell out what you mean?
Q106 Paul Farrelly: I have just given you an example. The central question of what the investigation was about, which was Jimmy Savile being a paedophile.
George Entwistle: Obviously, that became the substance of all our efforts in the inquiry the following week.
Q107 Paul Farrelly: That was the glaring question, which was obvious as soon as you read that blog, because that story had never been run; there was not an angle on the story.
George Entwistle: No, I agree, but it was run the following day by ITV.
Paul Farrelly: Yes.
George Entwistle: Obviously it is a matter of regret that it was not run by the BBC.
Q108 Paul Farrelly: I see from Panorama last night that you were e-mailed, on 5 November, by Meirion Jones to say that the explanation you were giving was wrong. You have explained what you went through then to come to the changes that you made yesterday. In essence, what you have done over the past three weeks is the basic journalism and fact-checking that you should have done before you made statements in the first place. Is that correct?
George Entwistle: No. What we have done over the past three weeks is try to get to the bottom of why there was this significant disagreement inside Newsnight on what the purpose of their investigation had been. It is not a situation I have ever encountered before-that there should be a dispute of such virulence inside a programme. Normally, you would expect a programme team, and their editor, to have reached an understanding of what their programme was there to investigate. Our concern came to be, rather than listening to individual accounts that may or may not have been full, but that apparently clearly contradicted each other, getting a full understanding, by reliance on other documentation and evidence, to ensure that we had an accurate overall picture before we published again.
Q109 Paul Farrelly: You have already made public statements on the basis of a blog that would have begged questions not necessarily just to a card-carrying member of the National Union of Journalists, but to a one-eyed Albanian. Do you not feel it is rather strange that the BBC makes public statements-which I hope you would agree is a broadcast to the public and the world-without going through the same processes of checking that it would do in broadcasting something like Newsnight? Will you change that in the future?
George Entwistle: As I have explained, I would absolutely have expected the editor of a programme to be able to give a definitive and factually accurate account of what had taken place on that programme. The lesson here for everybody asked to write blogs in future is that they need to recognise that a publication on behalf of the BBC has exactly the same standing as any other piece of BBC journalism. It must be accurate. It must be honest. Clearly, that is not what happened on this occasion. That, as I have said, is a matter of regret and something we have had to put right.
Q110 Paul Farrelly: I think we are going to move on shortly to conversations that you had, and also to the tributes, but in terms of your recollection of what happened in the editorial chain, since the affair broke, have you asked people such as Helen Boaden and Stephen Mitchell what they knew about the Newsnight programme, and whom they conveyed that to?
George Entwistle: I have asked Helen what her understanding of the investigation was, and her understanding was conveyed to her by the editor of the programme. That is consistent with what was put in the public domain in the blog.
Q111 Paul Farrelly: In terms of the central allegations that Newsnight was going to make, which were about Jimmy Savile being involved in sexual activity with underage girls, did she know that that was the content of the programme?
George Entwistle: I do not know the full extent of the detail of her knowledge of the investigation, but I do know that she had conversations. She had at least one conversation with Peter Rippon, where she came to understand what the nature of his reluctance to go ahead was.
Q112 Paul Farrelly: Why do you not know exactly what she knew?
George Entwistle: Because by the time it became clear to me that I needed to know, I had already decided I had to set up an external review. I had already gone to that, and I did not feel it was appropriate for me to prejudice that review by, effectively, launching my own set of inquiries inside the BBC alongside that.
Q113 Paul Farrelly: One of the e-mails, in which Peter Rippon seemed to go cold on the story, was aired on Panorama last night. It was copied to Stephen Mitchell. I do not know whether that was routine copying, but do you know from what stage Peter Rippon was in touch with Stephen Mitchell and Helen Boaden, and whether those conversations went further to Mark Thompson?
George Entwistle: I do not have any awareness of whether they went further from Helen Boaden to Mark Thompson. My understanding is that conversations with Steve Mitchell took place. I would not be able to say exactly when they first took place, but there were a number of conversations during the production of that item. I do not have any more detail on that, and all the detail we are gathering we are now making available to the inquiry.
Q114 Paul Farrelly: Given the importance of this-and there are only relatively very few individuals-this seems, just like the blog not raising any questions that seemed to be obvious, to be another example of an amazing lack of curiosity on the part of a journalist.
George Entwistle: On behalf of which journalist?
Paul Farrelly: You as a journalist, and the BBC, being full of journalists.
George Entwistle: My key approach to this was to recognise that if all this was to have proper justice done to it, it would need to go into the independent inquiry, and it would not be appropriate for me to run an inquiry alongside that.
Q115 Paul Farrelly: I want to turn briefly to Panorama, because there will be further questions about Newsnight. You said that you set up a separate process where you took yourself out of the line of being the editor-in-chief. At the same time, you have set up a process; you have set up some inquiries. They have changed as time has gone on, and then Panorama decides to wade in. This begs the question of who is in control at the BBC, does it not?
George Entwistle: Panorama’s right to decide what it investigates is absolutely Panorama’s right, and I think it is appropriate that Panorama should never take any broader corporate picture or broader corporate interest into account when making its mind up as to what to do. That is something I am proud of. That is not something I regard as chaotic. Panorama has its own agenda. It is editorially independent of the corporate interests of the BBC. It never seemed to me anything other than entirely an appropriate matter for them to decide what they wanted to investigate.
Q116 Paul Farrelly: Having looked at Panorama last night, would you agree that it might seem to the outside world as the BBC at war? You have a producer and a reporter/presenter against an editor who chose not to appear, but it seemed to be moderated by Kevin Marsh, who was the former editor of the Today programme and the former editor of the BBC college. It looked like the BBC at war.
George Entwistle: As I have said, there is no question in my mind but that there was a significant breakdown in communication on Newsnight on the subject of this investigation, and the editor and the two lead journalists on it were not reconciled in their understanding of what had happened and why it had happened. I think that is what you saw borne out in the Panorama-
Q117 Paul Farrelly: You watched the programme last night?
George Entwistle: Yes, I did.
Q118 Paul Farrelly: Editorially, did you think it had any defects?
George Entwistle: I thought it was a strong programme.
Paul Farrelly: Strong, but no glaring defects?
George Entwistle: No. I thought it was a good edition of Panorama.
Q119 Paul Farrelly: Can I run one past you?
George Entwistle: Of course.
Paul Farrelly: When it came to one of the points on which the blog was corrected, which was the issue of whether Newsnight had evidence that would have provided fresh details for the police, when that question was asked by the Panorama presenter of the Newsnight producer, Meirion Jones, it rather skipped from the question of evidence generally to evidence about a new person rather than Jimmy Savile. It skipped to Gary Glitter, and the argument was made by the producer that it would have been difficult to do anything with that because Gary Glitter was alive and, therefore, there are libel concerns, presumably; and secondly, nobody could identify the girl with whom he allegedly had sex in Jimmy Savile’s room. That was a sleight of hand, or sleight of vision, to me as a viewer, because the issue really was evidence in general, including evidence about Jimmy Savile. Clearly, we know now that the Karin Ward interview was not known to the police. Other people have come forward who were not known to the police, and yet the presenter of Panorama did not give the producer of Newsnight any challenging questions over why that evidence was not provided by them to the police. They glossed over it.
George Entwistle: I thought the reporter did press to a degree. I accept your point. In my view, it is a matter of absolute importance for the Pollard review to look at the question of what should have happened to the evidence Newsnight had after they decided not to proceed in respect of the police.
Q120 Paul Farrelly: You recognise there is a question there, not only about what the presenter and the producer may have done, let alone the editor of the programme, with respect to evidence and the police, but actually a Panorama programme not testing them on that. Therefore, to my mind, that casts some doubts about the objectivity of the Panorama programme. Again, it just seems to me to reinforce that it is the BBC at war.
George Entwistle: I was pleased to see that the programme tackled the question of what should have become of the evidence in respect of the police. I regard that as an important question for the Pollard review to address. I agree with you on that point.
Q121 Paul Farrelly: Just one final question. The real issue here is that some media groups will look at this and look at what happened with Panorama, and think, "Well, this would never happen in our organisation". You said it is a strength, but do you not agree it begs the question of who is in control of the BBC? Who is in charge? Are you an editor-in-chief, as would be understood at a newspaper group, for example, or are you just a managing director with lots of editors and editors-in-chief below you who do not bring you problems?
George Entwistle: No, I am editor-in-chief, in the sense of absolutely that. In the end, I take responsibility and accountability for all of the BBC’s journalism, but that is not the same as expecting every journalistic decision inside the BBC to be referred to me. I regard the independent right of the editor of Panorama to decide what he should investigate, even when that concerns the corporate affairs of the BBC, to be inalienable. It is a really important thing that he is allowed to do.
Q122 Dr Coffey: I assume Peter Rippon wrote his own blog on 2 October. Did he clear it with anybody before he published it?
George Entwistle: I understand that it was also seen by Mr Mitchell.
Q123 Dr Coffey: Then who wrote the clarification yesterday?
George Entwistle: The clarification was effectively a corporate production involving our legal advisers, me, and the press office.
Q124 Dr Coffey: Has Mr Rippon agreed to that being published, effectively? Did he challenge any of it?
George Entwistle: It was not up to Mr Rippon to agree to it, but it was shown to Mr Rippon and he did not change it.
Q125 Dr Coffey: Did you watch the ITV documentary?
George Entwistle: Yes, I did.
Q126 Dr Coffey: I appreciate these things have to be done thoroughly, but there is still quite an element of time between seeing the documentary and then your announcement of inquiries. I think it is eight or nine days later. Why do you think the BBC, under your Director-Generalship, took so long to make that decision?
George Entwistle: As I said, the thing that was uppermost in my mind, from the day before the ITV documentary-it was the day before that I contacted the police, and it was clearly, from the pre-publicity material, of criminal significance, and criminal allegations-was that it should be dealt with by the BBC in an appropriate relationship with the police. My anxiety was that if we were not careful, we might rush to set up an internal review process of some kind that would find itself dealing with criminal allegations it was not qualified to deal with, not capable of preserving evidence properly, and not able to compel witnesses. I gave my attention that first week absolutely to the business of making sure we were co-operating as fully as possible with the police. That involved a number of conversations between me and the police, making sure the BBC Investigations Unit understood how it was to relate to the police, and what it would do with any material that came to it. We worked solidly on that through those first few days after the ITV documentary was aired.
By the time I went into the Today programme the following Monday, it was clear to me. I agree I should have made it clearer that I was always prepared to see an internal review, which is what I announced on the Today programme on the Monday morning. Then we worked that week to make sure that the shape of those reviews was properly considered, and reached a position to be able to announce those by the end of that week.
Q127 Dr Coffey: Thank you for that. I would like to take you back to your role. Remind us, you were Director of Television?
George Entwistle: Yes, television.
Q128 Dr Coffey: In the run-up to Christmas, this huge tribute is about to happen, not only on television but covering the work that he did on radio. What is still surprising, and it has been reflected already, is that if Helen Boaden had said to you, "We are looking into Jimmy Savile-"
Chair: We are coming on to that section. We have not got to that yet; I do not want to get out of order.
Dr Coffey: All right. I will come back to that.
Q129 Mr Bradshaw: Sorry, just before we move off Newsnight, I would like clarification on a couple of things you have said here. If I have understood you correctly, you have confirmed today that the decision to drop the Newsnight investigation was referred up to Helen Boaden and Steve Mitchell. Is that correct?
George Entwistle: No. I do not know that the decision to drop it was referred up, but there were definitely conversations about it.
Q130 Mr Bradshaw: A few moments ago, David Jordan said something that puzzled me, which was that investigation of the Newsnight programme had not actually been commissioned. As I understand it, it had a transmission date of 7 December and was killed on 5 December, so it must have been commissioned.
David Jordan: Yes. What I meant by that is it had not been given the final go-ahead to go to air. There were obviously plans in process that if it made its target-if it was evidentially okay, if it all stood up-then it could go to air.
Q131 Mr Bradshaw: You would like to correct your earlier evidence?
David Jordan: Clearly, you have to go through those processes before anything goes to air.
Q132 Mr Bradshaw: So it had been commissioned?
David Jordan: Commissioned? It had been commissioned in the sense that it had been started. What I meant by "commissioned" was there was no final programme. There was never a final script, therefore the final say so or the final go-ahead had not been given.
Q133 Mr Bradshaw: Can you give this Committee an assurance that the BBC will not do a deal with Mr Rippon, involving him going quietly and you not completely trashing his version of events?
George Entwistle: It is absolutely premature to talk about what will happen.
Q134 Mr Bradshaw: Can you give us that assurance that no deal will be made?
George Entwistle: Can I explain what I think will happen? Peter Rippon will take part in the Pollard review. The findings of the Pollard review will be made available first to the BBC executive before they are then passed to the Trust. The BBC executive’s task will be to make an immediate decision about whether any disciplinary consequences should flow from the Pollard review. I do not think it would be fair to say anything else that would prejudice any of that process.
Q135 Mr Bradshaw: Finally, you have referred a lot to the Pollard review but, Mr Entwistle, do you accept that the BBC cannot hide behind or wait for the Pollard review? You have to get a grip on the facts, establish the facts and act on those quickly and decisively for the sake of your organisation.
George Entwistle: I agree that in the process of providing everything the Pollard review needs, we will go through that process and do our best to get a picture of what went on. It could yet be the case that people feel able to say things and make a contribution to the Pollard review that they would not necessarily feel able to make to the BBC, which is why I think it is so important that is there.
Dr Coffey: I have a specific question on Newsnight.
Chair: All right.
Q136 Dr Coffey: Referring to "just the women", it is reported that Peter Rippon stopped the programme without reviewing all the material. Would that be normal practice?
George Entwistle: It is hard to say what normal practice would be in an investigation on Newsnight. Sometimes the editor would see absolutely all the material; sometimes they would identify what they thought the critical material was and see only that. It would be very hard to generalise.
Q137 Dr Coffey: As for the critical part of Panorama that was displayed-the interview with Karin Ward-it is reported that that kind of material was not reviewed. Do you not find that rather remarkable?
George Entwistle: This all goes to the question of what Peter Rippon thought the Newsnight investigation was about. If he was focusing on the Surrey 2007 police investigation, which Liz McKean has said was an important strand in what they were doing, it may be that he did not regard the Ward interview as essential to that. It is very hard to make a judgment about someone else’s state of mind.
Q138 Dr Coffey: Are you aware of whether Peter Rippon sought any other advice from people higher up the chain about the decision to stop, on the basis of what should be reviewed as part of that decision?
George Entwistle: I am not aware, no.
Dr Coffey: Thank you.
Chair: Can we now move on to look at your own knowledge at the time when you were Director of Vision?
Q139 Damian Collins: I would obviously like to talk about the reports of the conversation you had with Helen Boaden. Before getting into that, just for the sake of clarity, the nature of the conversation is reported as being about the possibility of the broadcast of the Newsnight programme and the impact that might have on the Christmas schedule. The significance of the two of you discussing that is that you, I suppose, were ultimately responsible for the Christmas schedule.
George Entwistle: As Director of Television, I would not have been directly responsible for shaping the schedule, but yes, I had overall responsibility for every aspect of television.
Q140 Damian Collins: Yes. First, in your own words, do you remember what she said to you, and what was discussed at this event? I believe it was reported as having been at a BBC drinks party in the run-up to Christmas. Is that correct?
George Entwistle: No. It was not at a BBC drinks party. To the best of my recollection, it took place at a lunch, which was the Women in Film and Television lunch on 2 December, I think I am right in saying. I saw that Panorama last night said that it was a 10-second conversation. I would find it very difficult to tell you how long the conversation was.
The substance of the conversation was that Helen said to me-and this is to the best of my recollection, because this is a conversation a long time ago-"I wanted to tell you that Newsnight are looking at Jimmy Savile" or "investigating Jimmy Savile, and if it comes off, if it stands up"-words to that effect-"it may have an impact on your Christmas schedule". I said, "Thanks for letting me know. Please update me". What I meant by that was on whether or not it would be going ahead.
Q141 Damian Collins: Is it normal for Helen Boaden to discuss Newsnight investigations with you?
George Entwistle: No, relatively rare.
Q142 Damian Collins: What seriousness did you attach to what she said?
George Entwistle: I was grateful to her for giving me the heads up, but the key message I took away from the conversation was that it was not yet clear to Helen whether it was going to stand up or not, whether it was going to happen or not, and that was the key message I took away: if it stands up or if it goes ahead. That was the key burden of the conversation I took away.
Q143 Damian Collins: Did you contact her again about it, or did she contact you to let you know that the programme was not going to go ahead?
George Entwistle: No. We never spoke about it again, from which I inferred that the decision had been made not to proceed with it, which turned out to be the case.
Q144 Damian Collins: Looking back on that, do you not find that slightly strange, because changes at this late stage, into December, to a Christmas schedule, which has largely already been published, would be quite a serious matter? The Jimmy Savile tribute, the main tribute, went out on boxing day. This was a key part of the Christmas schedule. Would it not have been normal for you to have asked for more information or updates?
George Entwistle: I would not have had any qualms about making any changes one might have needed to make to the Christmas schedule. These were stand-alone programmes. They were not parts of a series or anything. The truth is that the schedule can be changed relatively easily. It happens relatively often that programmes are taken out, for whatever reason, and then put back in or not put back in. I did not take away from the conversation any technical challenge about the complexity of the Christmas schedule or the difficulty, if it were necessary, of removing programmes.
Q145 Damian Collins: Let us say, for example, the Newsnight investigation had continued, hypothetically. They decided not to air before Christmas but it took another month or so and it was aired in January. You would have felt, I would imagine, quite put out if this programme had aired within a matter of weeks after you had broadcast a massive tribute programme to Jimmy Savile.
George Entwistle: What I left the conversation with was an expectation that I would be updated on whether or not the whole thing was going to happen. At that point, if somebody had said to me, "We are happy with this. This is ready to broadcast", then at that stage I would have expected to engage fully with the consequences of it. As a former editor of Newsnight, the notion that an investigation might be under way but might not proceed to transmission was one I was entirely familiar with. The critical thing for me was "if it stands up; if it goes ahead".
Q146 Damian Collins: But this was not any other story, was it? As I said before, it is someone who is a BBC icon, not long dead, about whom you had commissioned and prepared a massive tribute programme, as one of the key items in the Christmas schedule, and you were being warned that not only was he being investigated by Newsnight, but the impact of that story could be so significant that you would have to pull the programme.
George Entwistle: No; allegations about very famous and prominent people get made, and in my-
Q147 Damian Collins: You yourself said it was very rare for Helen Boaden to bring up something like a Newsnight investigation with you.
George Entwistle: I agree with that, but I thought she was being a considerate colleague in giving me the chance to start to reflect on what the technical implication of the schedule change might be.
Q148 Damian Collins: Obviously you did not hear back, but was there any question in your mind about whether you should go ahead with the Jimmy Savile tribute?
George Entwistle: No. My assumption was that if there was anything I needed to know, I would have been told it.
Q149 Damian Collins: You never sought further information about the nature of the inquiry, why it had been dropped, whether it would come back, or whether the investigation would continue into the new year?
George Entwistle: I did not seek further information. Obviously this is something I have reflected on a lot. The reason I did not seek further information, and in a sense I think it has been made plain by some of the events of recent weeks, is this absolute determination I had, and I have-well, I had as Director of Television-to observe the separate organisation of News and Television. It is an absolute priority that, as a director in television, you do not do anything that could be seen to be putting unreasonable pressure on the investigation. I think that is what was in my mind.
Q150 Damian Collins: Is that not a blind spot within the organisation, because what happens when News is investigating Television?
George Entwistle: It is not a blind spot in the organisation, because if anything of any great seriousness is going on in any of the divisions of the organisation, then they should move up the organisation to the point where the person who brings the whole thing together, the Director-General, is able to take a view on what might affect other divisions and pass that information down again. That is how the structure would deal with that.
Q151 Damian Collins: It seems extraordinary you were so relaxed about what potentially was such a serious situation, and transpired to be.
George Entwistle: I was not relaxed about it, but I was critically waiting for the vital piece of information: "Do they have something they intend to go ahead with?".
Q152 Damian Collins: Do you now regret the broadcasting of the Jimmy Savile tribute programme?
George Entwistle: In the light of what has happened, of course I do.
Q153 Damian Collins: If you had asked more questions at the time, maybe it never would have gone to air.
George Entwistle: That is the question I have asked myself, and I was trying to find the right balance. For me, this has been an issue in terms of accusations against me personally that have been at both extremes of the same range. I have been accused of intervening, of getting the Newsnight investigation stopped out of a desire to protect the Jimmy Savile programmes, and I have been accused of not having shown enough interest in the Jimmy Savile programmes. I was trying to find the right place on that line. The key thing I needed to know was: did they have something that they intended to proceed with, that they thought was good enough to proceed with?
Q154 Damian Collins: In terms of the right place on the line, you failed.
George Entwistle: I do not believe I did fail, but I believe the system, as a whole, seems not to have got this right.
Q155 Damian Collins: You are quite a key part in that system. This conversation you had with Helen Boaden, it is not like two producers having a chat over the water cooler; you are two of the most senior people in the organisation talking about a Newsnight investigation into one of the most senior television personalities in the history of the BBC.
George Entwistle: For me, it had the quality of a preliminary conversation. It needed the next stage. If I had been told that they intended to proceed to transmission on such and such a date, I would have made sure I understood all the implications of it and acted accordingly, and that stage never came.
Q156 Damian Collins: Reflecting on the answers to these questions and some of the ones you have given to my colleagues, my concern about the BBC management structure is that it is a management by structure and process, rather than by people seeking information and making decisions. I think that is a concern for the organisation, moving forward, and may be a reason why this series of incidents was dealt with so poorly.
George Entwistle: I genuinely think that the system of referral up normally copes fantastically well with the challenges that it throws at the system. The fact that all those different divisional lines converge on the Director-General normally works extraordinarily well. As I say, I concede that there are real questions for the Pollard review about what happened in this case.
Q157 Damian Collins: Does there need to be a process whereby people at the top can challenge down as well more frequently, or are better informed about what is going on if there are likely to be problems?
George Entwistle: No. The right and power of people to challenge down the system is absolute, but it is based on what they know. It is based on what is referred to them. They-
Q158 Damian Collins: You sound a bit like James Murdoch now.
George Entwistle: No, I do not believe it is like that. There is no question here of anybody trying to turn a blind eye. What you know in detail is what informs the way you act.
Q159 Chair: When Helen Boaden said to you, "Newsnight is looking into Jimmy Savile", what did you think they were investigating?
George Entwistle: I do not remember reflecting on it. This was a busy lunch, and I-
Q160 Chair: You are told that one of the flagship investigative programmes on the BBC is looking into one of the most iconic figures, whom you are about to commission huge tributes to, and you do not want to know what it is.
George Entwistle: It was not that I did not want to know. What was in my mind was this determination not to show undue interest.
Q161 Chair: But you could have just said, "Thanks, Helen. What are you looking at?". Why did she tell you if you were determined not to ask what it was about? Presumably, she thought you should know and, therefore, would have expected you at least to say, "Really? That is interesting. What is it about?"
George Entwistle: I assumed she was preparing me-as indeed she was-for the possibility that I would need to think about changing the schedule. It was that information I took from the conversation.
Q162 Chair: You knew that she was telling you that it was sufficiently serious that you might have to think about changing the schedule, which is quite a significant thing to do, and you did not even say to her, "What is it about?".
George Entwistle: I have no recollection of asking her what it was about.
Q163 Chair: That is an extraordinary lack of curiosity, apart from anything else.
George Entwistle: As I say, what was informing my judgment-and I think this was emphasised by the fact that I had come from News and Current Affairs-was that I absolutely did not want to do anything that was construed as showing an excessive interest.
Q164 Chair: You think that just saying, "Thanks, Helen. Just what area are you looking at?" would be interpreted as somehow interfering in an investigation?
George Entwistle: I genuinely worry that all sorts of things that people say and do inside the BBC are potentially construable as doing that. Perhaps I was being oversensitive but I was being very sensitive to that point.
Q165 Philip Davies: It seems from today’s performance that your determination not to show an undue interest applies to everything at the BBC, not just that particular programme. On this point, it is not just a lack of curiosity, although it certainly is that for somebody who has been a journalist. Given that you are actually putting on these programmes, surely you must have wanted to ask, "Is it still appropriate for me to put these programmes on? Whether you can stand up a programme or not on Newsnight, is it still appropriate for the BBC to be putting on tribute programmes for this person?" Surely you must have asked that question.
George Entwistle: I did not ask that question. The possibility that was in my mind was that the investigation would not come to anything, and there are all sorts of reasons why an investigation might not have come to something. I was waiting to hear if I needed to do any more.
Q166 Philip Davies: I find this absolutely astonishing. There is a big difference between a programme that can be stood up legally-you must appreciate this-and something where there is enough evidence that actually we do not want to be giving a tribute programme to this person. Surely you can see that, even though you might not have enough to stand up a programme legally, it may still apply that it would not be appropriate to start showing tribute programmes about somebody. Can you see that?
George Entwistle: I think that our systems need to be more carefully calibrated to dealing with the outcome of investigations that do not proceed to broadcast. The thing that was in my mind was that if they had serious allegations that were supportable, it would end in broadcast, and I would be told about it, and I would act accordingly. I recognise that we need to reflect on making sure that we have a culture that does not run the risk of what happened happening.
Q167 Philip Davies: If I could just tie up a few other loose ends on that, you talked earlier about a chain of command at the BBC, which in itself was quite revealing, and showed a troubling culture. If you wanted to find out something about anything, I think you said that you would go to one of the divisional directors, and that that was pretty normal in big companies. I find that extraordinary in any size of company, to be perfectly honest. To bring in one of your competitors at ITV, Archie Norman, who I used to work with for many years at ASDA, if he wanted to find out what was going on in one of our stores, he did not go to the divisional director; he used to go to somebody who worked on the shop floor and ask them, "How are things going in the store?" because actually the people who know best tend to be the people who are doing it every day of their lives, and who have actually got their finger on the pulse. Why do we have this culture where you think that-you are the Director-General-it is inappropriate to talk to people on the shop floor?
George Entwistle: It is not that I think it is inappropriate to talk to people on the shop floor, and I often do talk to people on the shop floor. The key thing on any question where you need to ensure the division in question has a serious understanding of what is going on is that the right way to get that understanding is to ask that division to find out what is going on and report back. It is very risky to run the possibility of information that the division as a whole should have coming out of that division, and ending up in another’s hands, and leaving the managers of that division unaware of what is going on. The right way to find out what is going on is to ask a division to get into the facts itself and explain it.
Q168 Philip Davies: When Thérèse Coffey talked to you about the e-mail saying, "We had just the women", you said that you thought that there was something not right with the culture within the BBC, still. It had moved on, but it still was not as good as it should be. You have been at the BBC for 23 years, I think it may be. Given that you are so adamant that the culture is not right, what have you done about it in the past?
George Entwistle: As a manager, I have always striven to be absolutely even-handed, and as sensitive as I could possibly be, to both sexes and making sure that the working circumstances and the culture in which they work was appropriate. That is what I have striven to do, and I think-
Q169 Philip Davies: Did you say to Mark Thompson, as a Director-General, "Mark, the culture is not right within the BBC. You should be doing something about this. You’re not-"
George Entwistle: This is something we discussed at the most senior levels of the BBC. We discussed issues.
Q170 Philip Davies: But nothing ever happened?
George Entwistle: I think the answer is we have made some progress, but what I am saying is I think there is more progress to make. There is no question about that in my mind.
Q171 Philip Davies: In answer to Paul Farrelly, you said that there was no management pressure about the team pulling down the Newsnight programme. Then you very rapidly changed it to, "Inappropriate management pressure". It was very noticeable how you said there was no management pressure and then quickly changed and said, "Well, no inappropriate management". Does that mean there was some pressure but you considered it was appropriate?
George Entwistle: No. What I wanted to distinguish between there is managerial pressure that is appropriate to make sure that journalistic investigations are carried out properly. That is appropriate managerial pressure.
Q172 Philip Davies: That is what you were referring to in this particular case?
George Entwistle: That is what I was referring to.
Q173 Philip Davies: Can I ask about the BBC Trust? It seems to me that they appear to have had a distinct lack of curiosity about many of these things, too. When did Chris Patten, and people on the Trust, know anything to do with Jimmy Savile, the Newsnight investigation or any of these other issues that we have discussed today? Was anybody at the Trust made aware of these things?
George Entwistle: I started to make the Trust aware as soon as I began conversations with the police on 2 October.
Q174 Philip Davies: Even though there were allegations about Jimmy Savile that the BBC knew about last November-
George Entwistle: I do not know what happened in respect of the Trust then, because I was Director of Television at that point.
Q175 Philip Davies: Do you think that these are things that the BBC Trust should have been told about?
George Entwistle: I think the BBC Trust should be kept apprised of anything important to the organisation, insofar as the organisation understands what it is and is dealing with it as it should, yes.
Q176 Philip Davies: It should have been told about this?
George Entwistle: I do not think the BBC Trust should have been told about a Newsnight investigation in its early stages. If the significance of what Newsnight had found had been recognised, and properly dealt with by the organisation as a whole, it may well have been that the Trust would have been informed about it.
Q177 Philip Davies: It should have known that there were people making allegations about inappropriate behaviour at the BBC, about-
George Entwistle: No. I do not think it should necessarily be told that. I think it should be told when allegations are substantiated. There has to be a difference between allegations that are being investigated and allegations that have been substantiated.
Q178 Philip Davies: We talked about the impact that the Newsnight programme could have had on your Christmas schedule. Were there any plans afoot to have a more permanent, new Jim’ll Fix It series with a different presenter? Was that something that the BBC were actively working on at the time?
George Entwistle: I knew there was a possibility after the Christmas special that a version of that show might be commissioned, but I do not know what became of that.
Q179 Philip Davies: Had the BBC spent much money on that?
George Entwistle: I do not know beyond the Christmas special.
Q180 Philip Davies: If the BBC were considering a longer-term Jim’ll Fix It replacement, why did that not go ahead? If the tribute programmes went ahead, why did the series that you were contemplating, as an organisation, not go ahead?
George Entwistle: I do not know the answer to that question.
Q181 Philip Davies: Have you not asked that question?
George Entwistle: No, I have not asked that question.
Q182 Philip Davies: Are you going to ask that question?
George Entwistle: Yes, I will.
Philip Davies: Are there any other questions that you would like us to prompt you to ask that you had not thought about asking yourself?
Q183 Paul Farrelly: Just for my simple mind, I have seen various versions of this conversation with Helen Boaden. It has been reported that it happened on 2 December. Is that the correct date?
George Entwistle: That is when I believed it happened, yes, to the best of my recollection.
Q184 Paul Farrelly: It has been reported that it was at a party or over a water cooler, but you said it was at a lunch.
George Entwistle: It was at a lunch, yes.
Q185 Paul Farrelly: At a lunch, and it has been reported that it was 10 seconds long.
George Entwistle: I do not know where that report comes from. I would find it very hard to say how long it was.
Q186 Paul Farrelly: What did she say to you precisely?
George Entwistle: I cannot pretend to recall precisely what she said to me, but it was words to this effect: "Newsnight is looking at Jimmy Savile. When it is clear whether it is going to go ahead or not, or if it stands up, it may have implications for your schedule".
Q187 Paul Farrelly: "Implications for the schedule." So she did not, as far as you recall, say, "You may have to pull the tributes"?
George Entwistle: No, she did not. Not as far as I recall.
Q188 Paul Farrelly: Did you take that implication away?
George Entwistle: I assumed it must be the planned programming for Savile that she was referring to, yes.
Q189 Paul Farrelly: You took the implication away that you might have to pull the tributes, even though it was not said to you in so many words?
George Entwistle: Yes.
Q190 Paul Farrelly: How long did the conversation last, do you recall?
George Entwistle: I do not recall.
Q191 Paul Farrelly: You did not ask any further question. Is that is correct that you did not ask any further questions?
George Entwistle: I did not ask. I have no recollection of asking any further questions.
Q192 Paul Farrelly: Nobody else said anything to you about it afterwards?
George Entwistle: No, I do not recall anything else being said to me afterwards.
Q193 Paul Farrelly: You said you were trying to weigh it up in your mind to get the right balance, and you did not want to seem to show excessive interest, so it seems to have caused you some pause for thought.
George Entwistle: Of course it has given me pause for thought subsequently.
Paul Farrelly: No, at the time.
George Entwistle: No, at the time what was in my mind was this conviction I have that you have to be very careful about showing interest that might be construed as pressure. I felt I had taken everything I needed to know from that conversation. I knew what the subject of the investigation-
Q194 Paul Farrelly: Then to do nothing about it?
George Entwistle: To do nothing about it, waiting to hear from her whether or not we should do something about it.
Q195 Paul Farrelly: You knew that Jimmy Savile was the subject, but you did not know what-
George Entwistle: I did not ask for any details on what the investigation was.
Q196 Paul Farrelly: I just want to be absolutely clear, because it is very hard to understand the lack of curiosity. You said yourself you wished they had not dropped it, and that they had resurrected it. As Damian has said, by that stage, you would have run the tributes, and looked absolutely-well, I do not need to describe how you would have looked if you had run the tributes and then they had done the programme.
George Entwistle: If they had reached the point where they had stood the story up, which was the key issue and the key burden of the conversation I took away. I genuinely feel that in this situation my background as a journalist made me pay particular attention to the notion of whether it was stood up or not, whether it was going to go ahead, because as a journalist I had been involved in an awful lot of investigations that had not been stood up. In my career I had seen accusations made about important people that looked plausible initially and then faded away. There seemed to be a distinct possibility that that is what might happen.
Q197 Paul Farrelly: But you did know what the "it" was.
George Entwistle: No, but as a journalist you are privy to allegations of a great many kinds, and some of them work out and some of them do not. Some of them turn out to be true, and some of them do not.
Q198 Paul Farrelly: Three short final questions. Meirion Jones and Liz McKean-are they carrying on working for Newsnight?
George Entwistle: I understand Meirion Jones is currently attached to Panorama and will be working on other Panoramas from now on, and Liz is still at Newsnight, as I understand it.
Q199 Paul Farrelly: Not stepping aside to co-operate with the Pollard review, like Peter Rippon?
George Entwistle: No, but Peter Rippon is right at the centre of this. I have asked Peter Rippon to step aside because of my disappointment in the nature of the blog, and the inaccuracies in the blog. What he is going to do, now that he has stepped aside, is concentrate on preparing for the Pollard review. Can I just be clear that he has not stepped aside to prepare? He has stepped aside because-
Q200 Chair: Do you expect him to come back after the Pollard review?
George Entwistle: In all fairness, I have to allow him to go to the Pollard review with the best possible chance of being able to make his case and of being vindicated on his case. That is the only fair thing to do in respect of the Pollard review. I do not want to say anything else that might prejudice his prospects in that regard. But I asked him to step aside because of my disappointment with the blog.
Q201 Paul Farrelly: The second of three final questions is this. As far as you are aware, did both Meirion Jones and Liz McKean carry on working with Peter Rippon after Newsnight-after he-took this decision that they disagreed with?
George Entwistle: Yes, they did.
Q202 Paul Farrelly: As far as you are aware, they carried on working until the ITV programme aired?
George Entwistle: Yes. That is absolutely my understanding.
Q203 Paul Farrelly: This is the third question. The one thing that is really unresolved in this is why Peter Rippon had a sudden change of mind. The question that is unresolved is: who sat on him, who helped change his mind? Have you come to any conclusions? Was it the Director of News?
George Entwistle: Is it not possible that he changed his mind?
Q204 Paul Farrelly: But what do you think?
George Entwistle: From what I can see, he became more and more seized of the importance of the Surrey police investigation and the reasons for the police and the CPS not proceeding on the basis of the information they had. He became convinced that, without that, he did not have what he needed to make the story. As far as I am concerned, it does not need any external agency in this story for Peter Rippon to have changed his mind. But in the end this goes to this question of: how do you assess and understand what is in an editor’s mind in the process of making a decision like that? I think the best shot we all have at understanding this is hearing what he has to say to the Pollard review.
Q205 Steve Rotheram: Mr Entwistle, for an organisation, for a broadcaster and a corporation renowned for its investigative journalism, and following on from questions regarding the BBC’s lack of curiosity and impartiality, do you think the BBC would have pursued such a case more vigorously if it involved a different celebrity and a rival broadcaster?
George Entwistle: No. I believe that the producer and the reporter involved in this piece pursued it with every bit as much vigour as they would have done if it had been a celebrity from another place.
Q206 Steve Rotheram: If they did, how come we now know that there are probably 100 people involved in this? If they had pursued it, if they had dug down and scratched beneath the surface, why did that not come out?
George Entwistle: I could only-
Q207 Steve Rotheram: It was not vigorous, was it?
George Entwistle: I believe the investigation carried out by the two journalists in respect of Newsnight was. Looking at the BBC more broadly, I could only guess about what people had done in the past unbeknownst to me, and what their motivation was in respect of investigating. We did not do one, of course, but neither did anybody else.
Q208 Steve Rotheram: They did on ITV.
George Entwistle: Yes, they did on ITV on 3 October. For all the many years that people say they heard rumours and allegations, no newspaper landed an investigation of Jimmy Savile, that I am aware of, and no other broadcaster did. It is not like there was a period of immense vigour from lots of other people and not from the BBC.
Q209 Steve Rotheram: This was on your doorstep. This was an opportunity for you, as an organisation, with the rumours that abounded within your own corporation, to have done something.
George Entwistle: No, but we now understand he was a very skilful and successful sexual predator who covered his tracks. Last night the Panorama programme interviewed a number of people who said that they worked closely with him and saw nothing that gave them any rise for suspicion. Then, of course, it had the account of the group of people around Radio 1 who did ask him questions, but were reassured, by what he told them, that the thing they were asking about was not true.
Q210 Mr Bradshaw: Mr Entwistle, you were the editor of Newsnight at the time of the Gilligan scandal, which probably actually was the biggest crisis the BBC has had in the last 50 years. You will recall that at the time, the BBC boss class stuck to Gilligan’s argument and ignored the evidence of your own very distinguished science correspondent, Susan Watts, so you have some experience of how the BBC handles these things. Does it not seem to you-going back to what Mr Davies has just asked-that there is still a problem with the culture of management at the BBC, given what we know now? Still, and for far too long, the BBC boss class has stuck to this erroneous defence and has not listened to people at the bottom, at the grass roots.
George Entwistle: The key distinction between what happened over Hutton, or one of the key distinctions with what happened over the Kelly affair and what has happened in this case, is that I have set up an independent external inquiry into what happened within a matter of days of the problem, and the scale of the problem, becoming clear. I regard that as a completely different thing. There was no such process, as far as I am aware, in the case of what happened around David Kelly.
Mr Bradshaw: No, there certainly was not.
Q211 Dr Coffey: Building on what Mr Bradshaw has just said, is there an issue now that the BBC is so risk-averse that basically you have to have enough evidence to stand up in court in order to do that? Is that damaging for the BBC news culture?
George Entwistle: Of course, risk aversion is damaging to any news or investigative journalistic culture. One of the things I have made clear to the staff of the BBC, since I became DG, is that I want to see real creative adventure and real journalistic adventure characterise everything we are about. It is important to recognise, during a time like this, that 95% plus of what the BBC does is going on, and it is being in its many ways as magnificent as it always is. We have a very, very grave and serious issue here that has to be dealt with, but the imperative for the organisation to be journalistically adventurous and creatively adventurous is incredibly strong. It is something I intend to devote a great deal of time and focus to-to trying to eliminate creative risk aversion and journalistic risk aversion, if I find it, and ensuring that we are absolutely as bold as we should be.
Q212 Dr Coffey: I suppose one of the challenges that people are left with is that you almost have an either/or situation: either "Peter was so risk-averse" or "I do not know if he took legal advice on it or not". The investigation or the whole commissioning of the work stopped so suddenly that either "It was not on my watch and I cannot possibly lose my job over this" or there was very direct pressure from above to say, "Are you really sure this is what you want to do?".
George Entwistle: I have been able to find no evidence whatsoever in the conversations I have had and in the documents we have now pulled together that any kind of managerial pressure to drop the investigation was applied. The decision was made by Peter Rippon on his own account. What was going on in his mind at the time is something that we have to rely on the Pollard review to interrogate as best it can.
Q213 Dr Coffey: Given what has happened, and how your lack of curiosity was there to preserve Chinese walls within the BBC, do you think you will encourage your directors to be a bit more curious, so that frankly, instead of thinking about what might happen in the next few weeks, or a big tribute programme, the question might be asked, "Is this what we should be doing?"?
George Entwistle: This goes to the point I made earlier about us needing to think in a new way about what flows from an investigation if it does not end up on television. The consequences of an investigation going out on television or radio are plain to everybody, of course. You deal with them. They are there. Everybody deals with the consequences. I do not believe for a second the BBC would have had any difficulty whatever in reforming the Christmas schedule in the light of a Newsnight investigation if it had gone ahead. We would have been absolutely at pains to do so, and of course would have regarded it as the right thing to do. I do think, and I have acknowledged, that we need to address this question of what comes of journalism that does not necessarily result in output, yet which contains still important information for the corporation to absorb, either corporately or in respect of a relationship with the police and what the police need to get and so on. It is something I intend to look at.
Dr Coffey: Thank you.
Chair: We need to wrap up.
Q214 Paul Farrelly: Let me say this for balance, because I think it is unfair, until you have completed your investigations, to hang individuals out to dry. I rehearsed some of my concerns about the Panorama programme last night. You just said that Peter Rippon made that decision on his own account, and you have to get to the bottom of what was going through his mind. You do not know whether that is true or not until you have investigated it.
George Entwistle: No. To the best of my knowledge, and on the basis of the information I have so far, that is what I believe to be the case. Of course, if the Pollard review finds something different, then it will find something different, and we will all stand by what it finds, of course. I have striven today with the Committee to try to answer these questions as fully as I can, without endlessly simply saying, "That’s a matter for the review", but of course that is a matter for the review.
Q215 Chair: Can we just look very quickly, therefore, at the review? You said it is going to report as a matter of urgency. Would you like to say when you expect to receive the report?
George Entwistle: One of the key things to stress here to the Committee is that, in respect of these reviews, I am not chairing the executive board. The executive board is chaired by the senior independent director elect, Dame Fiona Reynolds. Again, that has been done to ensure that the process for commissioning the reviews, setting their terms of reference and taking delivery of their reports is done without any question that I might have an undue influence over that.
Q216 Chair: You believe it is essential to do this quickly?
George Entwistle: I believe it is essential that this is done as quickly as possible.
Q217 Chair: When would you hope to have a report?
George Entwistle: Realistically, I would be surprised, given the amount of documentation and the number of people that Nick Pollard will need to talk to, if it can be done in much under four or five or six weeks, but as soon as possible.
Q218 Mr Bradshaw: You cannot let this drag on till December. That is absurd.
George Entwistle: I want it to happen absolutely as fast as it can. I will do everything inside the BBC that I can do to ensure that it happens as fast as possible. I am not in control of the time period it takes, but I have made it clear to you that my view is that the faster it happens, the better.
Q219 Mr Bradshaw: Does that not make it all the more important that you assemble the facts yourself as Director-General, and act on those facts decisively before this report comes out, if necessary?
George Entwistle: We are assembling the facts and, of course, as we do that, my understanding of what happened will grow. We have set up a review that we have charged with finding out and, really, it is only fair to everybody who is going to take part in that review that the outcome of it be left to that properly constituted, independently appointed review.
Q220 Chair: You must accept that every day this goes on without anyone reporting, the BBC is incurring further damage?
George Entwistle: I do not know how much further I can go than to say I agree it should happen absolutely as fast as possible, and I will make sure that everybody understands that is my position on it.
Q221 Chair: Is it going to have access to all the relevant documents?
George Entwistle: Yes.
Q222 Chair: Wherever it wishes to go?
George Entwistle: Yes. Chairman, can I just make one extra point? For the avoidance of doubt, we expanded the terms of the Pollard review yesterday to confirm that the circumstances of the blog containing what it contained and the correction are also available.
Q223 Chair: You said it would be fully published. Do you expect that all the relevant documentation will be fully published as well?
George Entwistle: I would expect that as much of it as can be after legal advice will be.
Q224 Chair: Right. So you would expect everything to be published except that which the lawyers specifically say should not be published?
George Entwistle: Yes, I would.
Chair: Thank you. The Committee has just about completed its questioning for this morning. I thank you both very much. We shall await the outcome of the reviews, and obviously we may wish to return to this if we still think there are questions to ask.