26 November 2012 - 4:49am | posted by | 1 comment

Ex-BBC boss Entwistle faces Savile inquiry - but heat stays on NYT's Thompson

Mark Thompson: Closed door testimony Mark Thompson: Closed door testimony

The Pollard Inquiry into the Jimmy Savile affair resumes today in a London solicitor's office with George Entwistle, the 54-day ex Director General of the BBC, giving evidence . A stream of media figures have been telling who knew what or did what or did nothing on Savile and the abandoned Newsnight programme.

But the man who is really feeling the heat in New York is his predecessor Mark Thompson who was DG at the Beeb when the Savile programme was dropped. A writer in the New Yorker declared "For his sake, I hope that Mark Thompson, the former BBC bigwig who recently took over as chief executive of the New York Times Company, rented an apartment rather than buying one. The way things are going, he could well be back in London pretty soon."

Oh Friday , we learned after the event, that Thompson had flown from the US to give evidence.

Thompson spoke in the "closed -door hearing" as the New York Times described it, reportedly for some hours. What he said, we do not know.

But it had been reported earlier in the New York Times itself that with Thompson's approval , a lawyer's letter was fired off to the Sunday Times in September threatening legal action so we suspect he spoke about that on Friday, probably to inquiry counsel Alan Maclean QC .

Thompson may have been asked on Friday why he verbally agreed to sending out the letter, denying any part in suppressing the Newsnight film and threatening to sue the paper for libel if he was accused of editorial interference.

Thompson has said he does not recall ever reading the letter or if he was shown it. He has said he had no knowledge of the Savile allegations until October when ITV's documentary on Savile the paedophile was broadcast.

Roy Greenslade's blog in the Guardian records "incredulity" in New York about Thompson's lack of knowledge of the legal letter..

Advisers to Thompson, according to a Guardian report , say the idea behind sending out the letter came from the BBC's press and legal departments, and that its purpose was only to deny that the director general had exerted any pressure on Newsnight to drop the Savile film.

They say that the letter was aimed at reinforcing earlier denials of executive interference in the Newsnight film – and did not imply that Thompson knew more about Savile than previously admitted. The Sunday Times has published a PDF of the lawyer's letter on its website.

The letter, said the NYT report " shows Thompson was involved in an aggressive action to challenge an article about the case that was likely to reflect poorly on the BBC and on him."

Nick Pollard, former Sky boss said at the weekend that it would not be possible for the report, as originally planned, to be published in the second half of November.

“Taking into account the need for a thorough and fair process, the further interviews planned, the need to consider additional documents and the time required for report preparation... I now expect to provide my report to the BBC by mid-December.”

The Guardian has called it a "Leveson-style" hearing . A BBC trustee says it has reached "semi-judicial " status and , and the Guardian called it "legalistic " as it heads into its third week of evidence .

But the BBC-commissioned inquiry headed by Pollard, is no court of law and this is not a "Leveson hearing" . The witnesses are not required to take an oath and unlike Leveson, they are not giving evidence in public.

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Comments

26 Nov 2012 - 12:07
carolineredbrook

Shame on the NYT for hiring this person, whose character is at best, suspect. It speaks very poorly of the respectability of the Times.

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