BBC Jimmy Savile sex abuse allegations inquiry to be headed by outsider

BBC chairman Lord Patten denies cover-up over abandoned Newsnight investigation - those critics need to "join the real world”

An outsider will be brought in to head an independent inquiry for the BBC into the “cesspit” of allegations surrounding Jimmy Savile, BBC chairman Lord Patten said today.

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In his first intervention in the scandal which has dogged the BBC for ten days, the head of the BBC Trust said the inquiry would start as soon as the Metropolitan Police give it the green light.

The police are pursuing 120 separate lines of inquiry involving rape and sexual abuse by the star of Jim’ll Fix It and do not want an independent inquiry to cut across their investigation.

Speaking at a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch, Lord Patten said the inquiry chair would be chosen carefully to ensure they had the confidence of licence fee-payers and the BBC Trust. He dismissed suggestions of a cover-up at the BBC over a Newsnight investigation into Savile, which was conducted soon after his death last October but was was not broadcast. Those critics needed to ‘’join the real world”, he said.

Lord Patten said he was also asking the BBC director general George Entwistle to review the corporation’s guidelines surrounding child protection, bullying in the workplace and sexual harassment to ensure they were fit for purpose. “These are appalling stories and we can’t underestimate their seriousness even if the took place in the past.”

The allegations were particularly grave because some involved a BBC employee’s conduct on BBC premises, Lord Patten said.

In a separate move, Lord Patten revealed that he would publish within a fortnight a report into the way the BBC pays 5,000 regular freelancers, including 1,500 on-air performers and well-known presenters such as Fiona Bruce. MPs have described the BBC practice of using service companies as conniving with tax avoidance.

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Lord Patten said he expected some people would be put on the BBC payroll as a result of the review, and the corporation would start supplying extra information about payments to the Inland Revenue for those who remained freelance.