The New York Times
Mark Thompson says he was not aware of the details in a letter he authorized threatening London paper The Sunday Times with “defamation proceedings” over an article it was preparing about BBC program “Newsnight”‘s decision to drop an investigation into sex-abuse charges against one of its stars, Jimmy Savile, reports Matthew Purdy.
The letter was prepared in September by a law firm and “included a summary of the alleged abuse, including the allegation that some abuse might have occurred at the BBC,” Purdy writes. It “appears to have been the last in a string of opportunities for Mr. Thompson, while director general, to have gotten a fuller picture of Mr. Savile and the ‘Newsnight’ program,” he writes.
Thompson is now the CEO of the New York Times Co. He declined to comment for the Times’ article, but a former aide told Purdy, “It’s not clear if he was shown it, but he doesn’t remember reading it.”
As his time at the BBC wound down, Thompson displayed a remarkable ability to evade learning about the spiked investigation.
• BBC reporter Caroline Hawley asked Thompson about it at a party in late 2011. Thompson asked news executives about it afterward and they told him the investigation was killed for “journalistic reasons,” which seems to have satisfied him.
• Articles about the investigation, dropped in December 2011, were included in clips packets sent to BBC executives and discussed on Thompson’s daily conference calls with them.
• Freelance writer Miles Goslett contacted Thompson’s office in May after the BBC denied a freedom of information request he made about the decision. Thompson aide Jessica Cecil referred him to the BBC media relations office. Thompson was on vacation.
• The British TV channel ITV also contacted Thompson’s office in September as it prepared a report on Savile. Thompson was not informed, his spokesperson said.
• Thompson was on vacation in August when The Sunday Times called his office about the article it was preparing. He left the BBC in September and was on vacation in Italy in early October when ITV broadcast its documentary about Savile, which precipitated what BBC Trust head Lord Patten has called a “ghastly mess” at the public broadcaster. His first day as New York Times Co. CEO was this past Monday.
Previously: BBC reaches a settlement with politician it called a sex abuser | NYT: Mark Thompson ‘missed opportunities’ to address BBC scandal | Report: Mark Thompson’s office was contacted twice about BBC killing news program | Incoming New York Times CEO faces questions about future as U.K. scandal spreads