Report: Mark Thompson’s office was contacted twice about BBC killing news program

The New York Times | The Daily Mail
Incoming New York Times Co. CEO Mark Thompson’s BBC office was contacted twice by journalists seeking comment after one of the network’s news shows spiked a program investigating claims of rampant sexual abuse by a BBC star. Neither request made it to Thompson personally, his spokesperson told Britain’s Sunday Times.

Thompson, who was the BBC’s director general until September and was named the Times Co.’s CEO in August, has said he only heard about the decision in late 2011, at a party where BBC journalist Caroline Hawley asked him about the segment, which had been scheduled to run on a show called “Newsnight” and investigated a longtime BBC personality named Jimmy Savile. But in The Sunday Times this weekend, a journalist named Miles Goslett wrote that he’d filed a freedom of information request for internal BBC correspondence regarding the decision, and that Thompson’s office referred him to the BBC’s media relations department when he called for comment after that request was denied.

The British commercial channel ITV also contacted Thompson’s office, The Daily Mail says in an article that aggregates information from the Sunday Times article (which is very well fortified behind a paywall).

ITV broadcast a documentary about allegations against Savile earlier this month. New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan has urged the newspaper to investigate Thompson’s role in the “Newsnight” decision “thoroughly.” Nicholas Kulish reported Sunday that the BBC’s decision to can the “Newsnight” program “was far from a secret.”

“This was in six different newspapers in January and February,” said David Elstein, a former chief executive of Channel 5, a BBC competitor.

“The big failing internally, and this is where Mark comes into the picture, is the deliberate incuriosity of the senior executives,” said Mr. Elstein, who formerly worked at the BBC. “There is a culture of avoiding knowledge so as to evade responsibility.”

Thompson is scheduled to begin at the Times Company next month. In a conference call last week, publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said Thompson “abides by high ethical standards and is the ideal person to lead our company as we focus our business on digital and global expansion.”

Previously: Incoming New York Times CEO faces questions about future as U.K. scandal spreads

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  • Egg Man

    Mark will not become the CEO of the NYT, Game over. Not his fault, but he got caught in the middle of this storm.

  • JassaSkott

    Having worked for the president and CEO of a major newspaper publishing company, there is no way those executives would not be informed if reporters were calling their office about a sex abuse scandal involving one of their journalists or TV personalities. They might not respond to the call themselves, but they would most definitely be told about the matter and kept up to speed on it.