LONDON — BBC director general George Entwistle has defended the handling of the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse scandal, but admitted it has damaged trust in the pubcaster.
Entwistle, questioned Tuesday by members of Parliament about the affair, said he thought an investigation by BBC public affairs show “Newsnight” into the celebrity host’s alleged sex crimes should have been aired late last year, just a few weeks after Savile’s death at 84.
But he denied there was pressure from BBC chiefs to pull the film.
The “Newsnight” film was junked after program editor Peter Rippon initially said there was not enough evidence to justify a story that legal authorities had failed in their duty to bring a prosecution against Savile.
Rippon was suspended on Monday after it emerged that “Newsnight” had, in fact, gained fresh evidence of sexual abuse by the BBC star.
In the House of Commons, Entwistle, who took over as BBC topper last month, revealed it is examining 10 serious allegations involving past and present employees during the nearly 60 years that Savile was connected to the pubcaster.
Savile is accused of sexually abusing children and teens, often on BBC property, from his time as host of iconic music show “Top of the Pops” in the 1960s through to “Jim’ll Fix It,” which wrapped in the mid-1990s and in other specials beyond that time.
He also allegedly abused children he met through his charity work.
Entwistle was questioned by pols the day after the BBC’s flagship current affairs show “Panorama” examined how the pubcaster handled the Savile scandal, which has dominated headlines since an ITV expose of the abuse aired Oct. 3.
In Blighty the crisis has led to an avalanche of criticism directed at the actions of Entwistle and his senior managers, and at the BBC as an institution.
News Intl.’s newspapers, after more than a year of the BBC giving prominent coverage to phone hacking at the News of the World, have wasted no time in castigating the pubcaster.
The front page headline in Tuesday’s Rupert Murdoch-owned Sun was typical: “Savile: BBC’s Abuse of Your License Fee” it read.