BBC news – Jimmy Savile, George Entwistle and the balance of probabilities

by Robert Henderson

Jimmy Savile, George Entwistle and the balance of probabilities

Robert Henderson

George Entwistle gave as an abject a performance by a media experienced bigwig before the Culture, Media and Sport select committee(( ) as you will ever see. He adopted the BBC equivalent of giving nothing but his name, rank and number. (How on Earth did this timid personality with all the authority of a jellyfish become Director-General?)

Entwistle is, according to his account, a man who is immensely ignorant of what goes on in the BBC from choice, the choice being driven by a desire not to impinge on the autonomy of individual editors. Not only did he swear blind that he knew nothing specific about the Newsnight programme before ITV ran a programme on the same subject (, but he was left floundering by simple questions such as How many ongoing complaints of sexual harassment within the corporation is the BBC dealing with at the moment? Throughout the grisly two hours or so of the hearing, Entwistle recounted how he was setting up inquiries, tracking complaints, amassing data and doing a hundred and one other things. What he was not doing was answering questions for which he should have been prepared.

The committee’s questioning was as usual a curate’s egg, mostly rotten egg because most MPs are quite incapable of building a line of questioning on any particular subject, let alone working out a complete plan of questioning for a complex matter. Not one of the committee had the wit to lure Entwistle onto the truth quicksands by simply asking “When did you first become aware of rumours about Savile’s sexual interference with minors?” That would have put Entwistle in a very difficult position.

If Entwistle had lied to the CMS and said he had never heard the rumours, he would have been leaving himself wide open to exposure as a liar. Even if he was telling the truth or he lied and was never exposed, his denial would have seemed improbable simply because of the number of people who have worked for the BBC admitting they had heard rumours but never came across any hard evidence .

But if Entwistle had admitted to knowing of rumours he would be in even deeper and immediate trouble. He joined the BBC in 1989 and has worked for the BBC ever since. Savile’s prime show, Jim’ll Fix It, ran until 1994 and he returned intermittently to the BBC until near his death in 2011. There was ample opportunity for Entwistle to have at least heard BBC gossip about Savile’s sexual predilections.

The BBC’s Director of News, Helen Boden, warned him in the Autumn of 2011 him that Newsnight were working on a programme about Savile which might be incompatible with the Savile memorial programmes the BBC was due to air (and did air) in December 2011.

Entwistle claimed before the CMS that he did not ask Boden what the Newsnight programme was about because he did not want to be accused of interfering with editorial authority (this despite the fact that he is officially the BBC’s editor-in-chief) . If he admitted to hearing rumours about Savile before Boden warned him, his claim of respecting editorial authority and autonomy – weak as it is to begin with – would collapse because he would have had every reason to suspect that the Newsnight programme was concerned with Savile’ illicit sexual behaviour. In those circumstances Entwistle would have had to investigate what the Newsnight story was about because , apart from any moral considerations, he risked having a substantial part of his 2011 Christmas programme going west.

It might not be possible to prove beyond reasonable doubt (the criminal law evidential test) that the Entwistle is lying or at least not telling the whole truth, or that pressure from above was applied to get the Newsnight editor Peter Rippon to drop the Savile programme, but on the balance of probabilities (the civil law evidential test) it would seem probable that either or both things are true. It is human nature to be curious and both the simple circumstances of the dropping of a story when a great deal of work had been done and the programme was near broadcasting and the warnings given by Meirion Jones, the Newsnight producer, to Rippon that pulling the programme would cause that ‘substantial damage to the BBC’s reputation’ (

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Peter Rippon’s factually incorrect blog ( has been amended d by, according to Entwistle before the CMS, a statement created by the Corporation’s lawyers and himself. The corrections are:

1.The blog says that Newsnight had no evidence that anyone from the Duncroft home could or should have known about the allegations. In fact some allegations were made (mostly in general terms) that some of the Duncroft staff knew or may have known about the abuse.

2. The blog says that Newsnight had no evidence against the BBC. No allegation was made to the programme that BBC staff were aware of Mr Savile’s alleged activities, but there were some allegations of abusive conduct on BBC premises.

3. The blog says that all the women spoken to by the programme had contacted the police independently already and that Newsnight had no new evidence against any other person that would have helped the police. It appears that in some cases women had not spoken to the police and that the police were not aware of all the allegations. (RH : these women included the prime witness] (

Why did Rippon make such errors? Most probably panic. The alternative would be hubris driven by the idea that the BBC could ride the storm simply because they are the BBC.

The BBC have issued a further statement:

BBC statement issued to Panorama – 22/10/12

Date: 23.10.2012Last updated: 23.10.2012 at 08.04

Category: Corporate

The following statement has been issued by the BBC to Panorama (broadcast 22/10/12).

The BBC is putting first and foremost the victims of Jimmy Savile’s abuse. That is why we have announced a Judge-led review with sweeping terms of reference to uncover exactly how this could have happened.

BBC management will, furthermore, make themselves available to a second independent review that will seek to establish what exactly happened at Newsnight. This will be led by Nick Pollard, former head of Sky News.

The Pollard Review is the right forum to resolve detailed issues relating to BBC programming and the Newsnight investigation. Panorama has every right to pursue its programme but nothing should be done to prejudge the Pollard Inquiry.

However, on the basis of information provided by the Newsnight editor and production team, BBC management has reached the view that there are inaccuracies in the Peter Rippon blog of 2nd October and has issued a corrective statement.

We should also make it clear we now accept that the Newsnight investigation did not start out as an investigation into the Surrey police’s handling of the case against Mr Savile.

BBC Press Office

There may be much more to this story than Savile. Suppose, for example, that Savile acted as a pimp for others in the BBC with a taste for minors, especially those who were senior when he was most active or are senior now? Or perhaps the Savile was not the pimp but investigation of his activities will reveal the pimp and his (or her) customers. Will it ever be properly investigated? Don’t hold your breath, especially if really powerful people are drawn into the net.

19 responses to “BBC news – Jimmy Savile, George Entwistle and the balance of probabilities

  1. Surely the culture of cover-up and protectionism of the institutions that allowed JS to flourish is the same culture that drives the lies and evasion of the last few days of BBC replies. Start telling the truth and the hobgoblin will be laid to rest.

  2. I’m glad Robert is doing this. I watched the Panorama programme last night, and am now assured the claims themselves are either false or much exaggerated. I just can’t bring myself to think about Jimmy Savile any more. I managed to avoid paying him any attention while he was alive. It all gets properly on my tits, now he’s dead.

  3. Ditto on this one Sean. The smell of no win no fee also adds to the general stench. It’ll be interesting however when the main witness for the defence is called. Wouldn’t mind hiding behind a bench for that one.

    I saw a production of of the Mikado at the Savoy a few years ago. It was a Doyle Carte production I recall. I seem to also recall that they’d just re-formed but failed again shortly after. Jasper Carrot had been called up – to attract a wider audience I guessed – and although he acted his part well enough, he proved not to be much of a singer. I’ve still got the programme. He worked hard though and I admired him for it. When I’m pleased with a performance I become, without being completely aware of it, a wildly enthusiastic applauder – yelling, extended clapping, foot stomping the bloody works. You’d hate being near me.

    For the life of me, I cannot understand why the Savoy, the sweetest little theatre in Europe, possibly in the entire world, isn’t being used more effectively to promote G&S. The works of Hector Berloiz (the man who wanted most to pen works for a thousand piece orchestra) you also appreciate I noticed. Me too. Could never decide whose music to spend my paper round money on. Even though I’m from a musical family, discovering music for myself has been an adventure… and it’s still not over.

    Yes, now back to business… and who is this Jim Savile person anyway? Is he a politician? An aristo? A High Court Judge? A banker then? He sounds like he has to be one of those.

  4. Sean – The interest in this case is not primarily Savile but, firstly, the strong probability that Savile is simply part of a much larger scandal involving those with pwer wealth and influence, both within and without the BBC possibly including politicians, and, secondly the collective behaviour of the media, especially that of the BBC.

    How has this story been suppressed for so long? One of the classic traits of the psychopath is to constantly promote himself or herself as a superior moral and generally wonderful being whilst behaving abominably. The BBC has done that collectively for as long as I can remember, the current moral superior sham being the supposed religious adherence to political correctness when BBC staff are any but PC in their private behaviour, /especially that of senior male employees towards young female staff. I remember going to a recording of Any Questions in the 1980s. The grovelling eagerness of the numerous young attractive BBC female aides around the producer and presenter was astonishing. The girls just about restrained themselves from performing fellatio on the said functionaries but it was a close call.

    • Robert – I fully take your point. Savile is not the point. But this is a scandal that eminently suits your abilities. I’m good for a quick denunciation, before moving to something else. You are good at a slow and comprehensive unmasking of hypocrisy.

      By the way, I had a look at Garry Glitter’s Amazon presence last night. It looks as if his records are still doing nicely. It could be that he has a group of devoted fans, who would keep buying even if he were filmed eating new-born babies. More likely, I think, much of this paedo-hysteria is confined to the media. Because she grew up in Communist Czechoslovakia, my wife is good at noticing disconnects between media and public. You see it with race and immigration and “racism.” You see it with just about all the various moral panics. Most people are no longer paying attention. Most of those who do pay attention no longer care.

  5. There seems to be a desire (several articles have appeared on this blog with this theme) to use Saville’s supposed crimes as the door to an attack on the BBC because of its –again supposed–suppression of “the truth” about a vast network of paedos (presumably with their own clubhouse–the walls no doubt decorated with the heads of some of their victims) “working” out of the Television Centre.

    The reasoning seems to be that this witchunt will somehow damage the leftists controlling the Beeb.

    First of all there has yet to be a convincing case for there even being much of a case to answer and, until some solid proof is put forward, the friends of Liberty, of all people, should not be contributing to a whipped up hysteria.

    Second, the idea that the leftists running the BBC will be harmed is just not true. Any “cover-up”–even one that only exists in the tabloids fantasies—will be blamed on the old guard from the bad old days of the 60/70s. This will strengthen the lef’ts control in the same way that the Lawrence affair enabled leftists to get the better of the old guard at Scotland Yard and peddle their PC tripe.
    This is a drone that won’t fly–or rather it is a drone that will explode in the hanger so to speak.

  6. Why has recent reports of JS’s alleged necrophilia, a victimless ‘crime’, suddenly taken precedence over his alleged assault on minors?

    Shitty country, shitty media, shitty population.

  7. From somebody who has written so well about the witch hunt surrounding the Stephen Lawrence case, I would have hoped for a little more reserve and cyncism regarding this witch hunt, rather than simply buying into the conspiratorial paradigm of the Child Abuse Industry, those close cousins of the Racism Industry.

    No doubt some people at the BBC were trying, futilely, to avoid the shit hitting the fan, in the full knowledge that in the midst of an Activist hysteria, nobody will get a fair hearing and caution will be cast to the wind. One might laugh at this organisation who has been so glad to promote hysterias itself- over racism, and global warming, and indeed child abuse- being hoist by its own petard, but that would be naive.

    It was also naive for the BBC to think they could keep a lid on this. The primary accuser had her second book of “survivor” memories coming out to coincide with the documentary, and needed (a) the publicity and (b) the documentary to shield her from legal action.

    Savile is dead. There will be no trial or proof. Neither will any other accused get a fair chance to clear their name. Anyone foolish enough to attempt to sue for libel or other civil action will be devoured by the witch hunters. The BBC is on media trial for actions which took place four decades ago in a radically different moral climate, when “groping” was no more a criminal matter than calling people rude names, in an atmosphere in which courts automatically believe any “abuse” testimony as a matter of policy unless hard evidence can disprove it- which after so many years would be in most cases impossible. This is one reason that decent legal systems have statutes of limitation.

    If there is a conspiracy here, it is the strange bedfellows of the lesbian marxist feminists and the christian fundamentalists who, in the wake of post-war liberalism “conspired” to effect a moral reversal by declaring the male gender to be a rape conspiracy, using a suite of lies- Satanic Ritual Abuse, the “survivor” movement, “recovered memory”, etc- to generate possibly the greatest level of hysteria experienced in the Western World since the witch crazes.

    So, what do we have here? It was the 1970s, another country with another moral landscape. It was widely believed that the whole panoply of Victorian progressivist laws including the age of consent law would follow the buggery law into oblivion. Nobody had heard the word paedophile, and among all but the most rabid Mary Whitehouse-ists nobody considered 15 year olds to be qualitatively the same as 5 year olds, even though by law they were that Victorian Child Saver invention, “minors”. Nobody thought that somebody looking at a blossoming teenager and saying, “ooh, when is she legal then?” was suffering from a morbid perversion. Yes, it was illegal. Just like smoking a joint or having a pint after hours or looking at those continental porno mags you smuggled in in your luggage on your last holiday.

    But that was before the Panic.

    And a primary component of the Panic is the conspiracy theory. Nobody denies that a tiny proportion of people would do despicable things to infants. Nobody denies that a larger proportion of men (and indeed women), particularly in the more liberal past, would give in to their normal biological urges and break the law with “minors”. But integral to this Panic is the portrayal of conspiracy. There are “rings” and “networks”, in the classic style of the yellowest of journalism. And that is what they want to prove here. It is not enough to show that some men took some degree of advantage of their celebrity with adolescents with whom they came into contact. It is not even enough to show that some other people may have turned a blind eye, including organisations like the BBC who, in that different moral country, did not consider it their job to police the private behaviour of their employees. Instead, a grand conspiracy, an evil network must be demonstrated, with the full deployment of the Child Saver rhetoric. A quick bunk up with a teenager becomes “procuring” and “trafficking”. And people in 1972 are expected to have predicted the attitude that their actions would engender 40 years later. Of the sexually libertine attitudes of the time, it has turned out that only one- the public rehabilitation of homosexuality, the only one with Feminist support- has survived. All the others have returned, or are rapidly returning- to a state of condemnation more redolent of 1870 than 1970. Nobody would have expected that then. Nobody. Certainly nobody in their right mind would or could have predicted that a far greater sexual deviation- homosexuality- would be not only legal but actively protected by law while a far lesser one- if one can call it a deviance at all- of finding pretty girls attractive would be ruthlessly condemned in both the public and legal spheres. Come to that, who would have reasonably expected that in 2012, it would be seen as quite sane for a lesbian in the Guardian to condem men admiring the thoroughly adult figures of Beach Volleyball players as “perverts”? Nobody in their right mind would have predicted such a strange future.

    So. Is every celebrity to be now hauled into the stocks for their actions decades ago? Will every rock star who had groupies on their tour buses be hauled into the courts? There must be many girls out there with memories of what they did on those tour buses at 14 or 15 which they now consider quite differently as middle aged women living in a radically different moral climate. Or is it just the dead and the naff- the Smashies and Niceys, and the remnants of that now despised thing, 70s “light entertainment”- who must answer? Only time will tell.

    Whatever. Libertarians, and indeed Conservatives, should be cautious. We may dislike or hate the BBC. But sometimes, the distress of one’s enemies is not automatically to one’s own benefit. This will not bring down the BBC, or weaken it. The purpose of this is to strengthen the state of moral panic engineered by the Child Saver movement and groups like the NSPCC, who have already been put in charge of a police “investigation”. One might ask what statutory authority they have for doing that, but in the modern world of “partnering” no such questions will be asked. One might even cynically wonder if this is a reaction against the Tories’ scrapping of the child “safeguarding” database. We can be certain that many special interests- the usual suspects- will prosper. None of them will be libertarian in nature, and whatever the final outcome, this will result in a further strengthening of the State and, particularly, the “Third Sector” at the expense of liberty.

    Handle with tongs.

    • Ian B – As ever, a good post. But I disagree.

      The scandal is shifting from who may have been touched up by JS c1964 – and I can smell general suspicion that many of the claims are untrue – to who knew most about it and who did least to stop it. These are inevitably the lefties now in charge.

      A further consideration to distinguish this from the Stephen Lawrence witch hunt is that large numbers of the great and good freely indulge their taste for teenagers under the age of 16. People like Michael Mansfield might go to the stake before admitting the possibility of intellectual and moral differences between the races. But paedo-hunts are too scary in what they might turn up. I think that’s why homo-hunting in the olden days was never allowed to get completely out of hand.

      The outcome of the JS scandal won’t be less oppression. But I doubt if it will be more. And it does seem to have taken Esther Rantzen down. Nothing can be all bad if it does that!

  8. If I was artikulate I would have said all that first.

  9. Sean, the reason it’s shifted rapidly onto “who knew” is that the Child Savers want an “institutional” narrative, as with “institutional racism”, both so that permanent and radical change can be imposed on the institutional structure, as with the police after Lawrence and so that a healthy source of “compensation” can be tapped into to keep the allegations flowing. It’s standard procedure for the Panic merchants. The modus operandi was developed in that legalist hell-hole, the USA. You sue, you sue, and you sue again. The veracity of any particular claim is irrelevant; what matters is a general cloud of allegations which, since it would be impossible to refute them, will “prove” institutional neglect and culpability and open the compensatory floodgate.

    Whether or not “large numbers of the great and the good” routinely fuck teenagers, I have no idea, but so far we’re looking at the faded stars of light entertainment, and Smashy and Nicey, whio are hardly either “great” or “good”. There are I know continued conspiracy theories about paedophile rings in the corridors of power- there’s a particularly sad one around a girl called Hollie Greig- and of course our friend who regularly comments here about Ted Heath, Lord Lucan and Shergar and a gaggle of little boys on the Morning Cloud. Indeed, there was once a popular rumour that Heath was secretly and regularly taken to London Zoo in the dead of night to fuck the Pandas.


    The intended outcome of this panic is, let us be clear, more oppression. It is intended to render the institutions of society, particularly the police, so terrified of doubting any claim of rape or abuse, however dubious, ancient and unprovable, that they will launch a hair-trigger “investigation” and prosecution, as with racism claims- and as we all know, the process is the punishment in that regard. This is a major lurch forward for the GFNs, as was Lawrence; they are of the same kidney.

    Libertarians need to look at the long game; because it’s the long game that the enemy are playing.

  10. There is also supposed to be some nebulous connection between the Dunblaine killer and high level paedo rings.

    Strangly, one or two faces in Bliar’s orbit were done for paedo allegations.

  11. I’d sooner talk about Gilbert and Sullivan.

    Sean, I thought you said JS was getting on your tits. What about getting back to serious stuff? Even if it lasts for months, this nonsense will not change the status quo one iota. The BBC have far too greater hold over the general public to be affected by this. They don’t care about politicians or newspapers. Especially newspapers. Now if JS was still alive and persuaded to tell what he knew, things might now be on the cusp of change. But he’s dead. Of course they knew what he was up to but they didn’t care. They had other political fish to fry and if he’d have threatened them with a willingness to name names he’d have been fried too. It’s the BBC themselves that are now running with this. Let’s talk about music instead for Christ’s sake. It’s good for the soul. Ian B: Do you have blocks of this stuff already written down? You’re like a whirling dervish with it all. Surely you can’t just be sitting there tapping it all out in response to other comments – can you? You’ve missed your calling you have old son if you can.

  12. Even if it lasts for months, this nonsense will not change the status quo one iota.

    The continued existence of boneheaded naivete like this is what inspires me to type out these comments, one at a time. Though it has to be said, the continued existence of boneheaded naivete like this make me wonder why I bother.

  13. Keep bothering Ian. You’re an unpredictable spouter but an education for me with each additional comment made. Boneheaded eh? In a fit of annoyance over my teenage arguments with her, mum once proclaimed me bull-headed (which hurt quite a lot being that I’m the sensitive type) but I can’t ever recall being called naive before. But you’re right, as usual.

    I get it… you just don’t like opera buffo do you?

  14. The paedophile thing goes suspiciously deep and threads run through all kinds of apparently disparate events. Thomas Hamilton, the Dunblane killer, was a known (widely in the community) paedophile and the circumstances that surrounded his continued ownership of firearms in the face of police investigations into his actions and character were highly suspicious, to say the least. The allegations that Hamilton had influential connections and probable involvement with the intelligence services are, according to what I’ve been able to find out for myself, credible. However, the most likely relevant documents from the Dunblane Inquiry have been sealed for 100 years… “to protect the children.”

    To me the most plausible hypothesis is that paedophiles are covertly helped into important positions by the security services because paedophiles are easily controlled by their handlers, since exposure as a paedophile has devastating consequences for the individual involved.

    I have no doubt this affair actually has tentacles into the highest reaches of government.

    For sure the BBC is never going to reveal anything substantial, whatever the real facts of the matter are.

  15. Right on Johnny… and with no boringly extended rhetoric.

  16. Breaking news: St John International head office in London have this week made the decision to grant awards to two known members of a paedophile gang in New Zealand. The awards are to be presented by the Queen’s representative in NZ, the Governor General.