May 18, 2013
BBC chief to face lawmakers over sex abuse scandal
The head of the BBC goes before lawmakers on Tuesday with the publicly funded British broadcaster facing one of the biggest crises in its history over accusations it pulled a probe into sexual abuse by a former presenter as part of a wider cover-up.
George Entwistle, who only took charge at the 90-year-old media organisation in August, will appear before parliament's Culture Committee the day after Prime Minister David Cameron said the BBC had serious questions to answer.
Police are investigating allegations Jimmy Savile, once one of Britain's most celebrated TV stars who died last year, abused women, including girls as young as 12, over a 60-year period with some of the attacks taking place on BBC premises.
Police opened a criminal inquiry into the allegations on Friday, saying more than 200 potential victims had come forward.
Entwistle, whose predecessor Mark Thomson is the New York Times Co's incoming chief executive, and other managers have come under pressure to explain why rumours about Savile were not investigated at the height of his fame in the 1970s and 80s.
But far more damaging are suggestions an investigation into the alleged sex crimes by the BBC's flagship "Newsnight" show was pulled a couple of months after Savile's death in October 2011 because it would clash with planned Christmas programmes celebrating his life and charity work.
The editor of "Newsnight" stepped aside on Monday after the BBC said he had given an "inaccurate of incomplete" explanation of why his team's inquiry was dropped, prompting Cameron to voice concern that it appeared the BBC was changing its story.
The furore over Savile is the biggest controversy to surround the BBC since its director general and chairman resigned in 2004 after a judge-led inquiry ruled it had wrongly reported that former Prime Minister Tony Blair had "sexed up" intelligence to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
It comes as British newspapers await the recommendations of a separate wide-ranging inquiry into journalistic ethics following the phone-hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch's now closed News of the World tabloid.