BBC’s Savile Known to Prefer Young Girls: Newsnight Host

The host of the British Broadcasting Corp.’s “Newsnight” program said it was well-known that former “Top of the Pops” presenter Jimmy Savile had a penchant for young girls.

It was “common gossip that Jimmy Savile liked, you know, young -- it was always assumed to be girls,” Jeremy Paxman said, according to transcripts published today by the U.K.’s publicly funded broadcaster. His interview was part of a probe that examined why “Newsnight” didn’t air a report in 2011 about allegations of Savile’s sexual abuse.

Savile, who was known for his charity work with children, is accused of sexually abusing kids in care homes, hospitals and on BBC property. The broadcaster was plunged into crisis after ITV Plc aired a report about the allegations against Savile, which prompted George Entwistle to step down as BBC director general. After Savile died in 2011 the BBC aired tributes to him.

In his testimony, Paxman also cited cuts in staff and resources at the BBC and pointed out that top editors on “Newsnight” came from a background in radio. He said he felt those people had more loyalty to the institution of the BBC than allegiance to the news program.

The two-month “Newsnight” probe, led by former British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc head of news Nick Pollard, said in December that problems with the BBC’s “rigid” management structure and sharing information contributed to a breakdown in decision making.

‘Unhappy Chapter’

“The BBC has been open and transparent in its handling of this unhappy chapter in our history,” Tim Davie, the acting director general, said in a statement today. “It is important that the BBC now moves forward with the lessons learned and continues to regain the public’s trust.”

Mark Thompson, another former director general who became chief executive officer at New York Times Co. in November, said in transcripts that he never worked with Jimmy Savile, nor received any complaints about him.

While the Pollard review, which interviewed 19 people, ruled that no undue pressure was put on editors to drop the investigation into Savile, it cited an inability at the BBC to deal with the events that followed, noting the “level of chaos and confusion” was even greater than was clear at the time.

The BBC was sued earlier this month for so-called vicarious liability by an unidentified victim in relation to Savile’s actions, and lawyers have said dozens of other lawsuits are pending. A former police investigator may also have intervened on behalf of Savile in a 2009 probe into sex-abuse claims, according to a U.K. watchdog reviewing police failures to uncover the scandal before Savile’s death.

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