LONDON - The BBC did not deliberately cover up sex-abuse allegations against one of its most famous hosts in order to go ahead with tribute shows to him after his death, but its decision to drop a news investigation into the accusations was "seriously flawed," a highly anticipated report released Wednesday has found.
After the allegations of serial sexual abuse of children by Jimmy Savile came to light on a rival broadcaster, the BBC's management mounted a confused, inept and completely inadequate response, said the report. The effort showed considerable internal distrust and eventually cost the job of its new director general, it noted. High-ranking editors have been suspended.
The chain of events represents the most serious crisis to hit the BBC, one of the world's biggest media brands, in recent memory and has cost it some measure of public confidence in its journalism, said the report's author, Nick Pollard.
Pollard, a prominent former television news executive, was commissioned by the BBC to conduct an independent inquiry into why the corporation chose to kill an investigation into Savile by its program Newsnight that was on track to be aired in late 2011.
Savile, an eccentric figure who wore track suits and long hair, had died a few months earlier after many years as a children's television host at the BBC. Other divisions of the broadcasting corporation were planning lavish holiday tributes to him.
Those tributes went ahead, while the Newsnight program was shelved. But earlier this year, a rival network broadcast its own investigation of Savile, who is now suspected by police of having been a predatory pedophile responsible for molesting or raping dozens of young girls, some of them on BBC premises.
Pollard's report, based on interviews and a review of more than 10,000 e-mails and other documents, concluded that there had not been any undue pressure from senior management to pull the Newsnight investigation. Newsnight editor Peter Rippon made an honest but wrong assessment that the evidence in the investigation was not strong enough, the report found.