Liisa Rohumaa on BBC Radio Solent and BBC Radio Berkshire
24 October 2012
Online journalism lecturer at Bournemouth University Liisa Rohumaa was interviewed live on both BBC Radio Solent and BBC Radio Berkshire following a Panorama investigation into Newsnight’s decision to drop a feature into Jimmy Savile allegedly abusing children.
Liisa appeared on the BBC Radio Solent breakfast show with Julian Clegg the morning after the Panorama programme was broadcast on BBC1.
"It certainly put flesh on the bones, but it didn’t answer some very key questions – they just couldn’t get to what we all wanted to know, which was did George Entwistle [the BBC’s Director General] speak to the Newsnight editor or members of that team, what was the conversation, and was there any pressure to bear in any manner," said Liisa, who had also been interviewed on BBC Radio Solent following the broadcast of the initial ITV documentary which alleged Jimmy Savile sexually abused young girls.
She added that the Panorama investigation did not answer why the BBC decided to show tribute programmes to Savile following his death, even though they were aware that Newsnight reporters were investigating him.
She also said she was surprised that Newsnight editor Peter Rippon did not watch any of the raw footage gathered by reporters before dropping the feature, but only read the transcript.
"What also surprised me is that initially he appeared to be very interested in the story and then within almost a 24 hour period he appeared to get cold feet," she said.
She added that the fact that the Crown Prosecution Service had decided not to pursue a case against Savile would have been "one element" of Newsnight choosing not to run the story.
"But, as the reporters quite eloquently said," she continued, "they had other evidence, they had corroborating evidence – not just from the main person that they interviewed that went on the record but they had other pieces of evidence and they were also saying to him ‘ok, if that’s not enough, we’ll keep on this story’ but actually he killed the story and I think that is the question that people watching that last night would also want an answer to.
"As all journalists know, if your editor says you haven’t got enough, then you go back on the story and get more evidence, background, quotes and people on the record."
"I think that there’s great public backing for the BBC but this is damaging."
Speaking to Sarah Walker on BBC Radio Berkshire later that morning, Liisa said that most of the reaction from online bloggers and social networking sites was that Panorama "didn’t really reveal anything" and that there are still lots of "unanswered questions" – with "more to come on the story."
She added that there was a danger of the BBC and George Entwistle becoming scapegoats, and the scandal drawing attention away from Savile himself.
"I think that a lot of the commentary now is about the BBC – its culture, its reporting culture – and also what appears to be a big mess."
She also said that the public got the feeling that the "BBC is mishandling it."
"I think actually the BBC does need to investigate it," she continued. "The BBC is a public broadcaster and, at the moment, people are probably more interested in why Savile was employed for so many years and wasn’t caught, wasn’t brought to book."
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