Panorama’s VIP paedophile ‘investigation’ shows no change at the BBC

Former producer Meirion Jones said the report revealed how the broadcaster’s attitude to victims of alleged abuse has not changed since Jimmy Savile affair

Former BBC producer Meirion Jones, who was prevented from running an investigation into Jimmy Savile, said he was furious the programme had been aired. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters


Panorama’s report on an alleged VIP paedophile ring has reopened deep wounds at the BBC, which is still recovering from the impact of the Jimmy Savile affair.

Present and former executives at the BBC disagreed over whether it was appropriate for Panorama to question whether a VIP paedophile ring had operated out of flats in Dolphin Square in Westminster in a programme broadcast on Tuesday night.

Meirion Jones, the producer who was prevented from airing an investigation into Jimmy Savile by the BBC, was furious about the special hour-long programme. In an interview, he said: “There are still people at the BBC trying to make the case that you can’t trust victims and therefore they were right not to run the Savile programme.”

Jones, who no longer works for the BBC and went on to win awards for his work on the Savile scandal, said the corporation had behaved “disgracefully” in its treatment of another victim of historical child abuse, Karin Ward, and that this week’s Panorama showed how little the corporation had changed.

Panorama’s report, The VIP Paedophile Ring – What’s the Truth? casts doubt on the testimony of an alleged victim of such historical abuse, a sensitive subject for a broadcaster that had been accused of failing to air allegations about Savile and mishandling false allegations about Lord McAlpine.

The BBC is yet to publish a report, started three years ago by former High court judge Dame Janet Smith, into the culture and practices of the broadcaster during the time Savile worked there. The Metropolitan police has said that her findings could hamper ongoing investigations into sexual abuse claims.

BBC executives rejected Jones’s claims, with one senior executive responsible for the programme insisting that the broadcaster could not allow the need to atone for the mistakes of the past to stop good journalism.

Ceri Thomas, the editor of Panorama, said the furore reflected the impact the Savile scandal had had on two huge institutions, the BBC and the Metropolitan police. “What’s really interesting is how the big institutions have reacted to Savile,” he said.

Tuesday’s programme asked whether the “pendulum has swung too far” with mistakes of the past leading to any wild allegation being accepted by the media, police and judiciary. “Panorama can’t give up evidence-based journalism because it’s too dangerous,” Thomas added.

Some journalists were reportedly unhappy about questioning potential witnesses during a live investigation. Insiders said that once some of the programme’s material started to leak out, producers sought the earliest possible slot ahead of its end of intended programming on 29 October.

Thomas wrote a blog explaining why his team broadast the documentary, fronted by Daniel Foggo. In the blog, he asks whether “the police are so determined not to dent the credibility of witnesses that they don’t want to investigate it at all”. The BBC executive went on to criticise other journalists who had reported the allegations: “Parts of the media – particularly the online, alternative media – raced down that road, publishing wild stories without pausing to check if they were true. A lot of things have been published that never should have been.”

Mark Watts, editor in chief of Exaro, the online site which has led investigations into historical child abuse, said the programme was “a disgraceful piece of gutter journalism by the BBC”.




2 Responses to “Panorama’s VIP paedophile ‘investigation’ shows no change at the BBC”

  1. Lynn says:

    Are we really surprised. We know the truth. They just pretend not to. Credibility has gone for this propanda corporation. Time to call the license fee what it always was, tax.

  2. Dogman says:

    When the BBC acknowledged the existence of MI5 vetting, after its public disclosure in 1985, much was made of the claim that it was restricted to a relatively small number of staff. Alasdair Milne, then Director-General, said: ‘It may sometimes look foolish, but it is another source of information when you are trying to work out whether people are up to certain jobs; Clearly we are involved, a number of us, in very sensitive areas of material and the process of establishing that people can handle that sort of material is important, even in a democratic society.’“

    The system meant that all news and current affairs journalists, film editors, directors and producers in every department were vetted by the Security Services. Vetting was run from Room 105, a secluded office on the first floor of Broadcasting House – a part of the same network of corridors on which George Orwell modelled his Ministry of Truth in 1984. There the BBC employed a Security Liaison Officer who received the names of all successful job applicants from the chairmen of interviewing boards. Then the vetting, which in BBC-speak became known as ‘colleging’ or ‘the formalities’, took place.

    All BBC employees had a personnel file which included their basic personal details and work record. But there was also a second file. This included ‘security information’ collected by Special Branch and MI5, who have always kept political surveillance on ‘subversives in the media’. If a staff member was shortlisted for a job this second file was handed to the department head, who had to sign for it. The file was a buff folder with a round red sticker, stamped with the legend SECRET and a symbol which looked like a Christmas tree.

    The names of outside job applicants were submitted directly to C Branch of M5. They were then passed on to the F Branch ‘domestic subversion’, whose F7 section looks at political ‘extremists’, MP’s, lawyers, teachers and journalists. After consulting the registry of files, the names were fed into MI5’s computer, which contains the identities of about a million ‘subversives’.

    Once MI5 had vetted an applicant their decision was given in writing to the BBC’s Personnel Office. MI5 never gave reasons for their recommendations. But, quite often, if they said a person was a ‘security risk’, that was enough to blacklist him or her permanently.

    So…Savile’s habit’s were unknown to the spooks, really?

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