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BBC Chief Faces Parliament Over Child Sex Abuse Scandal

BBC Director General George Entwistle leaves Portcullis House in Parliament after giving evidence to a select committee on Tuesday.
Peter Macdiarmid
Getty Images
BBC Director General George Entwistle leaves Portcullis House in Parliament after giving evidence to a select committee on Tuesday.

The vaunted British Broadcasting Corporation is in the midst of a child sexual abuse scandal that has cast a shadow over the broadcaster's reputation.

The New York Times reports that George Entwistle, the head of the BBC, sat before a Parliamentary panel. In fact it was the same panel that took the lead in the investigation of the phone hacking scandal that brought Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. to its knees.

The Times adds:

"In more than two hours, Mr. Entwistle seemed to parry most questions, falling back frequently on the argument that formal inquiries would produce answers to some of the questions put to him by the panel, expressing "horror" at a scandal that had raised questions of trust and reputation for the BBC, and insisting that his direct knowledge of the affair was minimal. Panel members even mocked him for showing a lack of curiosity about events around him.

"The hearing came just a day after the BBC broadcast an examination by the 'Panorama' program into a decision by the editor of another program, 'Newsnight,' to cancel an investigation last December into accusations of abuse against Jimmy Savile, an iconic showman once depicted by the BBC as a national treasure."

The Associated Press did a good job at providing some background. Savile, who died last year at age 84, was a children's TV star, but he is suspected of assaulting more than 200 children over decades in places like his car and dressing rooms inside the BBC.

The AP reports that Panorama program goes into all the harrowing details of the alleged abuse and it stopped just short of accusing the leadership of the BBC of a cover-up.

CNN reports that Entwistle faced some tough questions, not only about the decision to yank the investigative program on Savile but also about the culture of the BBC, which may have allowed the abuse to go on.

"There is no question that what Jimmy Savile did and the way the BBC behaved in the years — the culture and practices of the BBC seems to allow Jimmy Savile to do what he did — will raise questions of trust for us and reputation for us," Entwistle said, according to CNN.

"This is a gravely serious matter and one cannot look back at it with anything other than horror, frankly, that his activities went on as long as they did undetected," he added.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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