Sunday, 28 October 2012
In almost all of the coverage of Newsnight, the BBC and the Savile scandal, people have been missing the main point. They are treating this as a news story, handled badly or well by Newsnight according to opinion. But it isn't.
From the moment Karin Ward mentioned Gary Glitter it was an allegation of a serious time committed on BBC premises by a living person. At that moment, the news story should have taken second priority behind passing the issue up the management chain so the authorities could be informed. Even had Glitter not been mentioned, the word should still have gone straight to the top of management because if Savile has been able to hoodwink the BBC for so long about this, there was still the possibility that the BBC's procedures even today are still inadequate.
But Newsnight didn't do that. They held onto the story so they could make a big public splash. That might be good journalism, but it stinks as a child protection measure. Had the abuse happened elsewhere, e.g. a school, we would expect the head teacher to be informed and the authorities immediately after, even though from experience I know that doesn't actually happen at some schools.
Panorama didn't notice the child protection aspect. They just treated it as a news story badly managed by Newsnight.
After making an apology to the victims, George Entwistle has also concentrated solely on the journalistic aspects of the issue. It doesn't seem to have occurred to him that Newsnight ought to have informed his predecessor for child protection reasons.
And the MPs on the Select Committee who grilled Entwistle have also comprehensively missed the point. They grilled him on how Newsnight covered the story.
When is everyone covering this going to stop thinking as journalists and start looking at the child protection issues? If the abuse has remained hidden and unaddressed until now, there is nothing to prevent there from being another Savile still at the BBC.
Posted by Jonathan West at 00:18