BBC Panorama and questions it raises…

I am writing this post just after watching BBC Panorama on Jimmy Savile sexual exploitation case.  If remaining words appears to be hero-worshipping of BBC Panorama and its team, I don’t deny it; because the Panorama team has done an excellent job uncovering its own parent organisation and possible cover-up.

Now to the crux of the matter; as each day goes by, case on Jimmy Savile is turning further and further intricate.  It was only a few weeks ago when Janet Street-Porter claimed in Question Time that the broadcaster was aware of Jimmy Savile rumours when she joined BBC in 1980s.  From that Question Time till today’s Panorama, things have moved swiftly.  What started as any other celebrity sexual exploitation case has now shaken the BBC to its core.  In BBC Foreign Editor John Simpon’s words – “the worst crisis” BBC faced in “nearly 50 years”.

Just in one day – 22nd October – we have seen

  • BBC Newsnight editor, Peter Rippon stepping aside from his post
  • BBC issuing correction that Mr Rippon’s blog was either “inaccurate or incomplete in some respects”
  • BBC Panorama bringing further evidence against possible cover-up by BBC; questions were raised even to the level of BBC Director General George Entwistle.

It looks more and more likely that BBC as an organisation – and its executives as individuals – are hiding more than what is currently known in public domain.  It also seems certain that there are additional evidences hiding in BBC’s secret archives, greenrooms and corridors – than what is currently made open. 

Meanwhile, let us not forget to thank ITV1 and its Exposure team who ultimately broadcasted “The Other Side of Jimmy Savile”.  In a way, it was this single programme which brought the case back in to limelight and re-initiated the serious crime investigation against Savile.  Had this edition of Exposure was not broadcasted by ITV1, the exploitation of vulnerable young girls (and boys too) would have been brushed under BBC’s carpets – consciously or unconsciously – by BBC staff and executives.

Back to BBC Panorama – why I liked this edition?  Simply because of

  • The independence enjoyed by Panorama, and (ironically) the independence granted by BBC to its various teams.  Look at the way they interviewed George Entwistle in “Rogue Traders” style!
  • The breaking-news-effect of the programme – Panorama mentioned today’s last minute happenings including BBC website alterations, Mr Rippon’s stepping aside and tomorrow’s interview of Mr Entwistle.
  • The way it clearly captured the internal tensions within BBC and its various wings.  Emotions and frustrations experienced by those who were interviewed were effectively captured in the programme.
  • It’s clear, open, frank and inquisitive style of story-telling.

A lot of questions were raised by Panorama –most important one is the question whether Mr Rippon pulled off the Newsnight programme all by himself, or did any higher-ups influenced his decision?

Other questions that come to mind are – how come all of the people who were associated with BBC, Jimmy Savile and the charities he supported kept quiet about this for 40-odd years?  How come all of these individuals found their voices and courage only after Savile’s death?  Let us avoid the victims; they were helpless, vulnerable and would not have been believed by wider society.  But why were the respected, fearless journalists and individuals from charity organisations silent about the whole matter?

Let us wait and watch for the events to unfold in coming weeks….


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