BBC too slow to deal with Savile crisis, says former news chief

The BBC was too slow to deal with the unfolding sex scandal surrounding Leeds-born presenter Jimmy Savile, according to a former high ranking corporation executive.

Richard Sambrook, the former BBC Director of Global News who also served on the corporation's management board, said the BBC was "very slow to spot the toxic nature of the story".

He told Radio 4's Media Show: "I think initially they thought this was about what a BBC contracted performer had done privately a long time ago and 'we'll let the police deal with it' failing to realise it was actually about what may have occurred on the premises with BBC guests for which they shared a responsibility.

"As soon as you have a major star who has appeared in lots of programmes accused of paedophilia on the premises it's not something you can say, 'Well that's just a matter for the police'".

Sambrook said the BBC had suffered from not replacing the role of Deputy Director-General which was eliminated as part of a cost-cutting exercise last year.

He said Mark Byford, the last man to hold the role, had a "lot of clout" on the BBC board and could "force that journalistic perspective into the board".

Richard Peel, who spent 10 years as the Controller of Communication for BBC News, said it was "remarkable" there was no-one on the executive board "responsible for its external communications".

He said it was "alarming" the BBC did not go into "crisis management mode" and said former Director-General George Entwistle "looked thoroughly unprepared" to deal with the media.

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