Thursday, 25 October 2012

'No comment'. The flabbergasting and extraordinary lack of curiosity over Savile.

National Treasure? Not anymore - Jimmy Savile with trademark cigar and bling.
As somebody who grew up watching the late Jimmy Savile on the television, both on Top of the Pops and Jim'll Fix It, I'm quite flabbergasted, but not surprised, to learn of what he'd been getting up to 'behind closed doors' so to speak.

Like a lot of people, I was aware of the rumours, although I wasn't 100 per cent – until now – about the nature of those rumours. Having said that, when it all surfaced in the media a few days ago, I found myself thinking, "ah, yes, I can believe that".

And now, of course, when I see him in his shorts, I put two and two together and get, among many other words, 'weirdo' and, alright, 'paedophile'. In fact, thinking back, it's odd that nobody thought of Savile as a weirdo before or, indeed, somebody one should keep away from children.

What is even odder, however, is the comments made by both the current Director-General of the BBC, George Entwistle, and his predecessor Mark Thompson who, I've just learnt, is the incoming chief executive of The New York Times Co.

Infact, in an article in today's International Herald Tribune, reporters Christine Haughney and David Carr write that Thompson said he had only been made aware that Newsnight had been investigating Mr Savile during a conversation with a reporter at a company party last December.

Now, you might think that's fair enough, but what is most odd – and equally as flabbergasting as the whole Savile affair – is that Thompson went on to say that he had not asked the reporter about the specifics of the investigation but he had followed up the next day with two BBC News officials.

My view of this is that Thompson, as both the then Director-General of the BBC and a human being must have been just a little interested in why Newsnight was investigating Savile.

Had I been Thompson, I'm 150% certain that I would have asked what it was that the programme was investigating. Surely, as the head of an organisation that prides itself, as a broadcaster and with being at the cutting edge of global journalism for decades, he must of been itching to know. Don't tell me that he didn't think, "what's he being investigated for?" But, apparently not!

If somebody approached me and said that a work colleague was being investigated by Newsnight, I would definitely want to know what they were being investigated for, it's just human nature. Who would be that disinterested to simply not utter just one word, why?

Similarly, the present Director-General, George Entwistle, displayed 'an extraordinary lack of curiosity' about the cancellation of the planned Newsnight programme on Savile that would, basically, have exposed him for the man he is – or rather was. Instead, the BBC put out tributes to Savile's life and career.

Despite the fact there had been rumours about Savile's sexual behaviour and a 2000 documentary in which his potential status as a paedophile was acknowledged, Thompson claims he was never told the nature of the allegations and nor did he ask (when he spoke to the aforementioned reporter last December).

Again, had I been the reporter, I think I would have said to Thompson, "Don't you want to know the nature of the investigation?" And why did Thompson say in the International Herald Tribune article that he had 'no reason to believe that his [Savile's] conduct was a pressing concern'? Again, why not? Thompson was the head of the BBC, effectively Savile's boss. He must have heard the rumours circulating about Savile, he must have known about the 2000 documentary and surely it must have crossed his mind that perhaps the investigation had a sordid edge to it. But no, not a bit of it!

There are now questions relating to Thompson's fitness to serve as The New York Times' top official following a questioning blog post by the newspaper's public editor, Margaret Sullivan.

Thompson joins The New York Times on 12 November 2012 and is being hailed as the 'ideal person to take the helm of the Times company' as it focuses on global expansion and growing it's digital business.

Thompson himself claims he is fit to take up the post and is quoted in the International Herald Tribune as saying, "It is my belief that there isn't anything in my participation or my role in this story that would impede my ability to join and work with my colleagues at The New York Times."

Probably not, but there must be questions being asked about his 'extraordinary lack of curiosity' – a phrase attributed to the current Director-General, George Entwistle.

While there is nothing to suggest that Thompson acted inappropriately, there's plenty to suggest that he and Entwistle didn't act at all. The big question is why?

And what about Newsnight's editor Peter Rippon? Why did he pull the plug on the investigation? Surely, a journalist of his calibre would have seen the value of the story and that it was in the public interest that it was broadcast? Was he leaned on? If so, by whom?

This story looks set to run and run and I find it absolutely amazing that, with 300 potential victims, probably more, these allegations have been supressed for so long. Why, for instance, didn't Independent Television News expose Savile? Why didn't Britain's nosey tabloid press have a go?

I for one smell a very big rat and I'm sure it won't be too long before we discover the truth.

The whole sorry tale – and the culture of silence surrounding it – reminds me of when I see paedophiles on television being questioned in a police interview room. All I can hear are two words: "No comment."

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