BBC Thompson Savile

NY Times boss Sulzberger defends BBC's Mark Thompson : Ideal person to lead company


By Noel Young, Correspondent

October 25, 2012 | 5 min read

In an article headline 'Sulzberger Expresses Support for Mark Thompson, Incoming Chief Executive' Arthur Sulzberger, chairman of of The New York Times, has thrown his weight behind the former BBC Director General as questions swirl about the cancellation of the Jimmy Savile paedophile documentary last December.

Thompson, defended by Sulzberger

The article bylined BY THE EDITORS appears on the Times website this morning .

It states , "Mark Thompson, the incoming chief executive of The New York Times Company, who has been under scrutiny this week in connection with a burgeoning scandal at the BBC, received enthusiastic support Thursday from Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the chairman of the company and publisher of The New York Times."

In a letter to the Times staff to discuss third-quarter financial results, Mr. Sulzberger said he and the board of directors believed Mr. Thompson possessed “high ethical standards and is the ideal person to lead our Company.”

The Times article says tt was "the first public comment by Mr. Sulzberger about Mr. Thompson’s status since it was revealed that a BBC investigation into sexual abuse by one of the BBC’s former television stars was cancelled while Mr. Thompson was director general of the British broadcaster. Mr. Thompson has said he did not know about the investigative segment, had no role in canceling it, and had not heard any of the suspicions about the television host, Jimmy Savile. Parliament and the British police are looking into claims that there were as many as 200 victims of abuse by Mr. Savile, who died last year."

In his letter, Mr. Sulzberger sought to ease growing concern within the Times, says the article, about the future role of Mr. Thompson, who is scheduled to start on Nov. 12. Saying he wanted “to address a topic that has been on many people’s minds,” Mr. Sulzberger said that Mr. Thompson had provided a detailed account of the BBC situation and that he was satisfied Mr. Thompson “played no role in the cancellation of the segment.”

“We are all looking forward to that day when he takes the helm,” Mr. Sulzberger wrote, adding that The Times has been and would continue to pursue the Savile story aggressively and objectively.

In an interview in the Guardian today, Mark Thompson said it was "completely correct" for the New York Times's 's powerful public editor to write that the newspaper must consider if the former BBC director is an appropriate person to take on the job.

Thompson said he believed it was "totally reasonable for institutions like the New York Times and the BBC to be free to examine everything, including subjects of corporate interest in the institution itself".

He also revealed that it was Helen Boaden, the BBC's head of news, who told him that there was nothing in Newsnight's investigation into Savile to concern him.

"It was Helen who came back and told me they were doing something and decided not to do it," the former BBC boss said.

The Guardian said Thompson, reiterating earlier accounts of his own involvement, said he had first heard about Newsnight's investigation from BBC journalist Caroline Hawley, who he recalls telling him "you must be really concerned about Newsnight's investigation into Jimmy Savile".

He added that he was "not sure if it was clear if the allegations were of a sexual nature", but resolved to inquire the next day. The former BBC boss cannot remember when he met Hawley, who spoke to him at a BBC drinks party intended to thank journalists who had covered the Arab Spring that year.

Other sources say the event happened on 20 December, well after the Newsnight investigation into Savile was halted by the programme's editor, Peter Rippon. But there is no verification of this, said the Guardian

Mark Thompson was speaking a day after Margaret Sullivan, the public editor of the New York Times, wrote an article under the headline "Times must aggressively cover Mark Thompson's role in BBC's troubles". Her piece discussed the Savile scandal and said: "It's worth considering now whether he is the right person for the job, given this turn of events."

BBC Thompson Savile

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