Newsnight editor Peter Rippon is to “step aside” following the BBC’s admission that an investigation by the programme uncovered evidence in the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse case that had not previously been seen by police.
The BBC2 current affairs show began researching allegations about Savile over a year ago, but according to Newsnight reporter Liz MacKean, at the end of November 2011 a previously enthusiastic Rippon had an “abrupt change of tone” regarding the story and decided not to go ahead with it.
MacKean suggested that the decision was influenced by senior BBC staff, saying in an email to a friend that “PR [Peter Rippon] says if the bosses aren’t happy… [he] can’t go to the wall on this one.” Rippon, meanwhile, claimed Newsnight had unearthed nothing to warrant continuing the investigation.
In a blog post of October 2 this year, Rippon said he was “confident that all the women we spoke to had contacted the police independently already” and that there was “no new evidence against any other person that would have helped the police.”
But the BBC has since published a correction to the post, calling it “inaccurate or incomplete in some respects” and admitting that the Newsnight team had uncovered “some allegations of abusive conduct on BBC premises”, adding that “it appears that in some cases women had not spoken to the police and that the police were not aware of all the allegations.”
A spokesperson for Newsnight told RadioTimes.com “[Peter Rippon] remains Editor, but will not be editing the programme pending the outcome of the Independent Investigation.”
A Panorama special, Jimmy Savile – What the BBC Knew (10:35pm, BBC1), will tonight talk to Liz MacKean and Newsnight producer Meirion Jones about the decision not to continue the programme’s investigation.