, LONDON, Oct 22 – The head of the BBC’s flagship current affairs TV programme stepped aside on Monday as accusations grew of a cover-up of sexual abuse claims against late television star Jimmy Savile.
Newsnight editor Peter Rippon had given an inaccurate account of why the show dropped its investigation into Savile, the shamed presenter who died last year, the BBC said in a statement.
The BBC, the world’s largest public broadcaster, has launched two independent inquiries into the allegations about Savile while British police have launched a criminal investigation.
“The BBC has announced that Peter Rippon is stepping aside with immediate effect from his post,” the BBC said.
The announcement came just hours after the BBC had denied a report in the Daily Mail newspaper that he would resign.
A blog that Rippon wrote about why Newsnight had last year dropped an investigation into the paedophile allegations against Savile was “inaccurate or incomplete in some respects” and has been corrected, the BBC said.
It said: “The BBC regrets these errors and will work with the Pollard Review (led by Nick Pollard, a former executive at the BBC’s rival Sky News) to assemble all relevant evidence to enable the review to determine the full facts.”
The BBC has insisted that the show was dropped for editorial reasons, not to cover up the allegations of abuse against one of the corporation’s biggest stars during the 1970s and 1980s.
The BBC show Panorama to be broadcast on Monday will claim the corporation pulled the broadcast of an investigation into Savile carried out by Newsnight after coming under pressure from senior managers.
“I don’t think the BBC has handled it terribly well. I mean, I think it’s better to just come out right at the start and say we’re going to open everything up and then we’re going to show everybody everything”
Savile was one of Britain’s best-loved television presenters who raised huge sums for charity. But claims that he sexually abused underage girls have left his reputation in shreds and the BBC facing accusations of a cover-up.
Two weeks after a programme by BBC’s commercial rival ITV aired allegations about him by a handful of women, Scotland Yard said the claims had snowballed, with up to 200 possible victims.
Veteran BBC foreign editor John Simpson said in an interview to be aired on the Panorama programme that the Savile claims have plunged the broadcaster into its biggest crisis for 50 years.
“I don’t think the BBC has handled it terribly well. I mean, I think it’s better to just come out right at the start and say we’re going to open everything up and then we’re going to show everybody everything,” he said.