Katherine Rushton and Jess Fleig — Daily Mail Sept 24, 2015
BBC boss Alan Yentob was last night accused of calling the journalists who exposed the corporation’s cover-up of Jimmy Savile’s crimes ‘traitors to the BBC’.
The claim was made by Meirion Jones, Newsnight’s former head of investigations, whose 2011 report into sex abuse by Jimmy Savile was blocked by corporation bosses.
According to The Sun, Mr Jones claims the remark about him was made to another employee after he contributed to Panorama’s exposé, Savile – What The BBC Knew.
The programme, by Mr Jones and his colleague Liz MacKean, revealed the organisation’s attempts to stop Newsnight exposing Savile as a predatory paedophile who carried out some attacks on BBC premises.
In an article for Spectator Life magazine, Mr Jones said: ‘A BBC colleague abused as a child wrote to Tony Hall [director general] to complain about the Savile affair.
‘In his email, he says he approached Yentob just after Panorama broadcast a film about whether or not there had been a cover-up at the BBC. He claims that Yentob denounced us. “Liz MacKean and Meirion Jones are traitors to the BBC,” Yentob told him.’
Last night, a Tory MP demanded an investigation into whether the allegation was true. Philip Davies said that, if correct, the revelation made Mr Yentob’s £330,000-a-year executive position ‘untenable’.
Mr Yentob, 68, strongly denies making the comment. A BBC spokesman said: ‘Alan says this is categorically not true.’
Mr Jones compared Mr Yentob’s attempts to meddle with the BBC’s coverage of the Kids Company charity to the BBC’s cover-up of the Savile scandal. He said it was ‘abundantly clear’ that Mr Yentob should not be ‘haranguing’ reporters about the fund which he chaired.
He added that the pressure the BBC creative director has piled on journalists in recent months has made some of them fear for their jobs at the broadcaster. ‘Some involved in the present showdown even feared that, if they persevered, they might be forced to leave the BBC, as Liz and I had done, and the parallels with our battle with management over Savile were obvious,’ he said.
The BBC’s attempt to suppress the Newsnight documentary plunged the corporation into the biggest crisis in its history, and the subsequent handling of the matter cost the then director general, George Entwistle, his job.
Lord Hall admitted last week that Mr Yentob had pressured staff over Kids Company – but insisted it was not a problem because the BBC had still managed to lead on the story.