Ninety seconds of audio released by The Times media correspondent Ben Webster has undone former BBC Director General Mark Thompson’s evidence to both Parliament and the Pollard Review over what he knew about Savile. The damning tape from an interview last October has Thompson admitting that he knew the fateful Newsnight investigation was into Savile and about “sexual abuse of some kind”. Fast forward to 9.15:
In a letter to Tory MP Rob Wilson on 23 October 2012 Thompson said he “never heard any allegations or received any complaints about Jimmy Savile”. On 21 January 2013 Thompson again denied knowledge of the Savile scandal during his time running the BBC. As Guido exclusively revealed, Thompson told John Whittingdale, chairman of the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee, that “neither Caroline Hawley…nor the leadership of BBC News told me what the investigation had been about.” Really?
This recording comes to light just two weeks after it was revealed by Miles Goslett in the Sunday Times that Helen Boaden, outgoing head of BBC News, asked her lawyer to write to Nick Pollard 12 weeks ago clarifying that she told Thompson in a telephone call on or around December 21, 2011 that Newsnight’s investigation was about child abuse.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that this Webster interview proves that Thompson knew that Newsnight had investigated Savile for child abuse in 2011 and yet still allowed the BBC to broadcast lavish tribute programmes to him that Christmas. Over the ensuing nine months – while Thompson was trying to secure his new job at the New York Times – he maintained he knew nothing about Newsnight’s Savile inquiry. This looks a lot like a smoking gun…