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Press Release Rob Wilson

Press Releases

Rob Wilson: BBC needs to be decisive, Stephen Mitchell must go now

Rob Wilson MP press release

Rob Wilson MP has today called for BBC's Deputy Head of News, Stephen Mitchell, to go immediately following a series of damning criticisms in the Pollard Review. Mr Wilson also questioned whether Helen Boaden and David Jordan should remain in their roles following the following their conduct during the Savile scandal.

Following the Pollard Review report, Mr Mitchell has been allowed to work out his notice before "bringing his career to a dignified end" by retiring next year. The Pollard Review makes clear that Mitchell's multiple failings bear significant responsibility for the problems the BBC encountered following the Newsnight investigation into Jimmy Savile. These include:

* A "serious mistake" in the absence of which some of the problems that followed "might well have been avoided." Mitchell's decision to remove the Savile investigation from the internal "Managed Programmes Risk List" - a tool designed to warn and inform senior management about potential problems - was described by the Pollard Review as "a serious mistake on his part, for which he has not been able to provide any credible explanation." The Review concluded that had it not been for Mitchell's error, "some of the issues which followed might well have been avoided. At the very least, that would have opened the door for appropriate conversations among senior BBC management about the nature of the Newsnight investigation..." (Pollard Review, page 58, paragraph 58)

* Mitchell's "lack of clear leadership" compounded the errors in Peter Rippon's blog. "This lack of clear leadership in relation to the blog contributed to the lack of clarity in the document and in respect of the blog's purpose...When clear leadership was required, it was not provided." (Pollard Review, page 36, paragraphs 63-64)

* Ineffective during the BBC's crisis. "Mr Mitchell was - for a time - involved, but unfortunately his actions do not seem to have made a significant contribution to resolving the BBC's difficulties." (Pollard Review, page 38, paragraph 76)

* Missed opportunity to warn Controller of BBC1 about Savile tributes. The Pollard Review found that during a meeting on 28th November with Danny Cohen, controller of BBC1, "Mr Mitchell could have taken the opportunity to tell Mr Cohen that there was an investigation into Savile." (Pollard Review, page 33, paragraph 53b)

* Criticised for "surprising" frequency of memory lapses and for "exceptionally vague" evidence to the Pollard Review. The Pollard Review found that "Mr Mitchell said (as was a common feature of his evidence) that he could remember virtually nothing of this meeting. I found the frequency with which Mr Mitchell's memory failed him surprising. He was exceptionally vague as to whether Christmas tribute programmes had even been discussed in that conversation." (Pollard Review, page 56, paragraph 50)

BBC Head of News Helen Boaden was also criticised - including for failing to take a more active role in resolving things when "it was clear that a significant part of the division she headed was in virtual meltdown." The BBC's Director of Editorial Policy and Standards David Jordan escaped censure despite making giving several misleading public explanations about the decision to drop the Savile investigation, even after he had been warned of this.

Mr Wilson said:

"In any other organisation or walk of life, people subject to such damning criticism would be fired, not kept on the payroll for months at the taxpayer's expense in order to "bring their career to a dignified end".

"It is also questionable whether someone criticised for failing to take action when her department was "in virtual meltdown" should return to the management of BBC News. I am also unsure how the man responsible for the BBC's editorial standards escaped censure for repeatedly making public statements that he knew were disputed.

"The BBC's response to the Pollard Review and MacQuarrie looks completely inadequate. Licence fee payers will find it hard to understand why, when thousands of people have been made redundant in recent years, the BBC managers responsible for nearly trashing the Corporation's journalistic reputation are found cushy jobs elsewhere."

"This will only entrench public anger that the BBC's leadership class are completely out of touch and that reform is needed to keep the Corporation honest."

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