Sat Nov 10, 2012, 04:42 AM
muriel_volestrangler (73,835 posts)
BBC in turmoil as Newsnight's Tory abuse story falls apart
Source: The Guardian
The BBC said that it was suspending all Newsnight investigations after the programme's accusations that a "leading Conservative" had been involved in child abuse unravelled, with the programme's star witness admitting hours earlier that he had mistaken the peer's identity.
The broadcaster, which is still coping with the fallout from the shelving of a Newsnight investigation into Jimmy Savile, also apologised unreservedly as a senior executive was parachuted in to supervise Friday's edition of the programme, on which the question of its own continuing survival was raised by presenter Eddie Mair.
Steve Hewlett, a Guardian columnist and BBC Radio 4 journalist, also claimed the BBC had investigated Steve Messham, who made the claims about the Tory peer, Lord McAlpine, on at least two separate occasions "and found them wanting".
It also emerged earlier on Friday that the BBC decided it was not appropriate to contact McAlpine, a former treasurer of the Tory party, for a right of reply on Friday of last week because it had no intention of naming him in the Newsnight film. It opted instead to accuse a "leading politician of the Thatcher years" of being involved in child sexual abuse linked to care homes in North Wales.
Read more: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/nov/09/newsnight-lord-mcalpine-abuse-allegations
And an interview with the BBC Director General this morning (see http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1088&pid=2635) has revealed that George Entwhistle, the man in charge of the BBC, doesn't seem to follow the news closely enough to hear top stories in which the BBC is being threatened with law suits, and none of his underlings bothered telling him about it either.
3 replies, 2134 views
Response to Blandocyte (Reply #1)
Sat Nov 10, 2012, 05:31 AM
muriel_volestrangler (73,835 posts)
2. No, I don't think so
There had been rumours about McAlpine for years that various people in the media had heard about, which seem to have come from what Steve Messham had said. But no-one thought they stood up enough to be made public. The Guardian story from yesterday morning is good on this:
Lord McAlpine was exonerated by the 1997 Waterhouse inquiry of any involvement in the abuse of children in the north Wales homes but not named because of an order by the retired judge preventing the identification of either victims or alleged abusers. As a result he has been the subject of persistent smears, which resurfaced following the Newsnight allegations about a senior Tory.
Waterhouse, a retired high court judge, reported his frustration that Messham would not at the time reveal the alleged forename of the McAlpine he believed had abused him, or who had suggested the name to him. The judge concluded that although Messham was testifying in good faith, and had indeed suffered extensive sexual abuse, his evidence was inconclusive about "any member of the X family". He left open the possibility that Messham might have been wrongly told by a third party that a McAlpine was involved, or have jumped to conclusions.
But, crucially, Messham's 1997 evidence to Waterhouse should have ruled out speculation about Lord McAlpine, whose Italian home has been mobbed by reporters for the past week. Reporters covering the inquiry at the time concluded that Messham could not be referring to Lord McAlpine because Messham said his abuser was dead. In another apparent discrepancy, the Times reported this week that their reporter put Lord McAlpine's name to Messham in 1996. "But he said that his abuser was called 'Tom' and had a flat in Wrexham".
The only apparent corroborative evidence about Lord McAlpine has also been undermined. It came from another boy who was not a Bryn Estyn inmate. He described being abused in Wrexham five years later by a wealthy figure with a Harrods charge card. Traced by the Guardian, this victim, who wants to remain anonymous, confirms that his sole knowledge of Lord McAlpine comes from being shown a photograph of him subsequently by a journalist.
The victim told the Waterhouse inquiry, under the name "Witness C" that he was no longer sure he had identified the right man. Waterhouse reported: "C had subsequently indicated … that he could not be 100% sure that his abuser was a member of the X family, and it is clear that he was referring to a different person."
And now it seems the Newsnight investigation had not shown Messham a photograph of McAlpine before they put out the programme. Nor had they contacted him for him to have a chance to defend himself, because they weren't actually naming him. The end effect, though, was for his name to spread via Google and social networks.
I think part of the problem may have been over-reaction to Newsnight stopping their Jimmy Savile investigation. If you don't know that story, here's a summary:
Jimmy Savile was a DJ and TV presenter who worked at the BBC from the early 60s to the 90s, often with children. At his height, he was one of the biggest 'stars' on TV. He did a lot of fundraising for charity, and was knighted for that. He died in 2011, and the BBC Newsnight programme , a few months later, started an investigation into accusations he had sexually assaulted or raped many teenage girls. The editor of Newsnight spiked the project after just one of its facets (that the police had decided not to prosecute in the 2000s because of his age) turned out not to be true - seeming to think "top BBC star was prolific paedophile" wasn't news (or he was pressured from the rest of the BBC, which had tribute programmes to Savile ready to run at the same time, for Christmas).
Eventually, this September, ITV, a rival channel, did run a documentary with the accusations, after they had found about 10 victims, many of whom had talked to the BBC. Once in the open, literally hundreds of people have come forward to say Savile assaulted them in some way over the years. That editor of Newsnight has 'stepped aside' from his job while an investigation into what Newsnight did (run by a news executive from another channel, Sky) is happening.
So Newsnight had been looking like it was unconcerned about paedophilia. What may have happened is that they were determined to change that, so they rushed this story to air without considering the likely fallout from it, or making sure it stood up to scrutiny.
Response to muriel_volestrangler (Original post)
Sat Nov 10, 2012, 07:56 AM
Anthony McCarthy (507 posts)
3. What's wrong with the BBC?
And now it seems the Newsnight investigation had not shown Messham a photograph of McAlpine before they put out the programme.
That's acceptable research at the BBC? Geesh, and we're all supposed to cow-tow to its excellence. I wonder if it's a problem of Brit tabloid standards being taken up market. Or maybe it's the American practice of reporting gossip as "it's being said that" by other means.
They'll pay a price for all of this, it's too bad we can't make FOX, CNN, CBS, etc. pay for crap journalism like running with Breitbart crap.