Savile accusations 'were censored'

Bicester Advertiser: The BBC has published thousands of pages of evidence gathered during an inquiry into Newsnight's decision to drop its Savile investigation The BBC has published thousands of pages of evidence gathered during an inquiry into Newsnight's decision to drop its Savile investigation

Detailed accusations about Jimmy Savile's sex crimes were censored after viewers tried to post them on a BBC tribute web page.

The comments, which included one person who wrote: "One of my best friends in 1972 was molested by this creep Savile. He was never the same again. Killed himself in 1985. How's About That Then?", were stopped from being published by a team of moderators employed by the corporation.

The details were included in thousands of pages of evidence gathered during an inquiry by former journalist Nick Pollard into Newsnight's decision to drop its Savile investigation which have been published by the BBC.

A transcript of an interview between Mr Pollard and former director-general George Entwistle refers to examples of the comments, including one person who wrote: "He was a paedophile. You may not like the truth but he was. It will all tumble out now." Another wrote: "Sorry to rain on the parade of all the well-wishers, but he was infamous in Scarborough. I would not have been letting my son sit on his knee."

During his interview, Mr Entwistle said he thought moderators may have been affected by "anxiety" after details of a hoax, which claimed Savile had been challenged about his crimes on an episode of Have I Got News For You, were published online. He told Mr Pollard: "I have seen an email where moderators are put on alert about not publishing stuff that is to do with this hoax, I think that might be part of the story about the pre-conditioning of their minds about how to treat critical material."

Some 3,000 pages of emails, interviews and submissions from BBC executives and journalists, including Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman, were made available online in what the BBC said was a bid to be "open and transparent". The amount of traffic to the website crashed it shortly after publication. Acting director-general Tim Davie said : "The BBC has been open and transparent in its handling of this unhappy chapter in our history. It has not been an entirely comfortable process for us to go through but it is right that we did it this way. It is important that the BBC now moves forward with the lessons learned and continues to regain the public's trust."

BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten pledged at the time of the report's publication that all the evidence would be released, apart from some redactions for "legal reasons". Legal teams are said to have been sorting through the evidence for several weeks, deciding what should be made public. The BBC said that roughly 3% had been redacted. Lord Patten said: "These documents paint a very unhappy picture, but the BBC needs to be open - more open than others would be - in confronting the facts that lie behind Nick Pollard's report. A limited amount of text has been blacked out for legal reasons, but no one could say that the effect has been to sanitise this material, which again puts a spotlight on some of our failings. We need to acknowledge these shortcomings and learn from them."

Mr Pollard - a former Sky News executive - was appointed to head the review late last year to look into whether management failings were behind the decision to cancel a six-week investigation into abuse claims against Savile in December 2011, weeks before a Christmas tribute was broadcast. The scandal last year claimed the scalp of Mr Entwistle little over 50 days into the job. A separate Newsnight investigation last summer led to Lord McAlpine being wrongly accused of child abuse.

In one email headed "Jimmy Savile - paedophile", producer Meirion Jones, who was involved in establishing the axed Newsnight report, flagged up the idea of an investigation just hours after the presenter's death was announced. He proposed the suggestion, possibly for Panorama, because he said some of the girls who had been molested by Savile were ready to talk about their experiences. He wrote: "Some of the girls are now prepared to talk about this which might make a core to a film about what Jimmy Savile really got up to - and of course he's dead so he can't sue." His emails also contain vivid transcripts of the sexual activities in which girls at Duncroft approved school - where Savile was a regular visitor - were encouraged to take part. In another email, which had already been made public, BBC executive Nick Vaughan-Barratt said he felt uncomfortable about preparing a BBC obituary for Savile. He wrote: "I'd feel v queasy about obit. I saw the real truth."

Paxman told the inquiry "the important question" was how Savile had been allowed to rise to prominence within the BBC. He said: "What was the BBC doing promoting this absurd figure, this absurd and malign figure? And I think that has to do with the fact of the BBC having been aloof from popular culture for so long. Suddenly pirate radio comes along and all these people in metaphorical cardigans suddenly have to deal with an influx - once pirate radio, once pop radio is legalised, they suddenly have to deal with an influx of people from a very, very different culture and they never got control of them and I'm not sure even now they have."

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