Had Thompson been aware as early as late 2011, then the question arises why the BBC chose to screen glowing tributes to Savile after he died in October that year.
Police investigating allegations that Savile molested children and young people over a four-decade period, sometimes on BBC premises, said early this year they were dealing with more than 200 recorded criminal offenses.
Thompson, who was BBC director-general – a role that incorporates that of CEO and editor-in-chief – since 2004, told the independent Pollard Review late last year he had “never heard” rumors that Savile had a “dark side of any kind, sexual or otherwise.”
The inquiry, chaired by former Sky News chief Nick Pollard, ultimately accepted Thompson’s assertion, made a year ago as he prepared to take up the NYT post, that “During my time as director-general of the BBC I never heard any allegations or received any complaints about Jimmy Savile.”
But Pollard’s report did not include the information about the Boaden-Thompson phone call. (Thompson has said that he and Boaden had “slightly different recollections” about the phone conversation.)
Conservative committee member Conor Burns pressed the point.
“This will never truly go away until we know what the then-director general knew,” he told Hall.
“If he was told by Helen Boaden what her lawyers allege he was told, that leaves a very serious question mark. As much as you want to move on, people are going to remain curious for a long time to come.”
Hall repeated that Pollard himself had said the Boaden claims did not affect his original conclusion.
“People still want to know what the truth was,” Burns persisted. “People were so repulsed by what emerged about Savile. It was such a pivotal moment for the BBC, that people are going to remain curious until the facts are fully known.”
Another Conservative member of the committee, Philip Davies, asked Patten what the BBC Trust – which commissioned the Pollard Review in the first place – was doing about the fact the inquiry’s final report had not included the information about Boaden’s phone conversation with Thompson.
Patten defended the inquiry and report, calling it “thorough and independent.”
“It would be bizarre if I was to try to rewrite it now,” he said. “I have no reason to suppose that we shouldn’t accept that report [as it is].”
The hearing also touched on another controversy – also arising during much of the period Thompson was in charge – relating to abnormally large severance packages to senior BBC executives.
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