George Entwistle is appearing before a select committee for the first time this morning. It won’t be a gentle start for the new BBC Director General, though. He is giving evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport committee from 10.30 on the Jimmy Savile scandal, and will face a slew of awkward questions from MPs. Here are five of the most pressing:
1. Why did he hold such a brief conversation about the implications of the Newsnight investigation for the rest of the BBC’s output? Entwistle held a conversation with Helen Boaden last December in which she warned that the report would impact on the BBC’s tribute to Savile. He will be grilled on the content of that conversation: particularly whether he asked for more details on the allegations themselves. If he didn’t, MPs will be curious about why Entwistle himself was not more inquisitive.
2. The BBC yesterday said the information supplied by Newsnight editor Peter Rippon about his decision to drop the investigation was ‘inaccurate or incomplete’. What information has now come to light to make that clear? He may well be asked about any conversations he has had with the Newsnight team of journalists who worked on the investigation itself.
3. What is his understanding of why the investigation was dropped? If the information reporters had gathered was incomplete, wouldn’t normal procedure would be to push back the deadline and give them more time to complete their work?
4. How long has he known about the allegations surrounding Jimmy Savile? Last night’s Panorama featured as many former colleagues of Savile admitting that they had heard endless rumours about the star as it did harrowing accounts from victims and from those who stumbled across what they believed was abuse. It would be surprising if Entwistle had not heard at least conjecture about Savile’s behaviour.
5. Does he still stand by his own explanation for why the investigation was dropped? In an email to BBC staff, the director general said: ‘The BBC Newsnight programme investigated Surrey Police’s inquiry into Jimmy Savile towards the end of 2011.’ But the programme’s producer Meirion Jones sent a response saying: ‘We didn’t know that the Surrey Police had investigated Jimmy Savile – no-one did – that was what we found out when we investigated and interviewed his victims.’Tags: BBC, George Entwistle, Jimmy Savile