Sunday, 11 November 2012

An intriguing thought

It might have slipped your mind briefly in the last twenty four hours - it had mine - that key BBC News executives had ‘recused’ themselves during Nick Pollard’s inquiry into the Newsnight Savile investigation.

That’s to say, they’d taken themselves off the pitch for anything to do with the shelved investigation and/or further Savile allegations.

I'd assumed that this recusation applied only to matters Savile. But a senior BBC executive told me this morning that those who'd recused themselves - and that included the former DG George Entwistle - interpreted their quarantine as excluding them from any editorial decision making on any further allegations of child abuse.

Remember, George Entwistle told John Humphrys in the fatal Today interview that the Newsnight McAlpine film had been signed off “at management board level” – normally it would have been what’s known in the BBC as the News Board, usually chaired by the Head of News, Helen Boaden. The BBC Trust Chairman, Lord Patten, told Andrew Marr something similar.

Now, the line of command upwards from Newsnight prior to the Savile row was: Editor of Newsnight (Peter Rippon) - Head of News Programmes (Steve Mitchell) - Head of News (Helen Boaden) - Director General (George Entwistle)

Once Rippon had "stepped aside" and other News executives 'recused' themselves, that line of command on 'recused' matters became: acting Editor of Newsnight (??) - Head of Newsgathering (Fran Unsworth) - Director of World Service (Peter Horrocks ... replaced during Horrocks's annual leave by Adrian van Klaveren, the controller of R5Live) - Director of Audio and Music (Tim Davie). That meant Davie was effectively editor-in-chief on 'recused' matters.

It appears from what I learnt this morning that the Newsnight McAlpine film was judged to fall within the 'recused' area ... and that, therefore, it was dealt with by the temporary management structure and not the regular one.

If that's the case, then many of the questions over the McAlpine film that John Humphrys fired so effectively at George Entwistle - who declined to raise the complications of 'recusation' as any defence - might just as properly be put to the new acting Director General, Tim Davie.

Another small stone on the mountain

I've hesitated before adding to the post-Chilcot comment mountain. But there are a couple of things that strike me - especially since ...